USA: THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH URGES MISSOURI TO END ITS DEATH PENALTY
May 11, 2012: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch urged Missouri to end its death penalty as the system has ground to a halt because of controversies involving its method of execution.
On May 8, the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals declined to rule on a challenge to the stateâs lethal injection protocol because the Department of Corrections could no longer obtain Pentothal, one of the three drugs specified in the protocol. The Court said, âThe DOC is unable to carry out the challenged protocol as written, and it appears unlikely it ever will.â A new protocol will be needed. The court noted that George A. Lombardi, the director of the Department of Corrections, has the authority to rewrite the execution protocol to allow the state to substitute a different drug in its lethal injection procedures.
The consternation arises because Hospira, Inc., of Lake Forest, Ill., the sole U.S. supplier of Pentothal, a trade name for sodium thiopental, stopped making it in 2010. For a few months, the firm thought to import the drug from a supplier in Italy, but that ceased in January 2011 because the Italian company wanted assurances that it would not be used in capital punishment.
Challenges to the use of Pentothal, including one brought by 16 Missouri death row inmates in the case of Ringo v. Lombardi, argued that the drug sometimes failed to bring on deep unconsciousness. Ohio solved that problem by going to a one-drug protocol, using Pentothal in a 2009 execution and switching to pentobarbital for a 2011 execution.
Courts have upheld the substitution. But H. Lundbeck, the Danish firm that distributes pentobarbital in the United States, has objected to its use for capital punishment. Already some state corrections departments, including Missouri's, have been unable to acquire it. Should Missouri find a supplier, inmates will surely mount challenges.
Among Missouri's 47 condemned men, the most immediate beneficiary of the drug shortages is Michael Tisius, 31, who faces an Aug. 3 execution date. His execution almost surely will be stayed. The editorial called this recent turn of events âan ideal time for Missouri to follow the lead of 17 other states and forego capital punishment. It's expensive and serves no deterrent effect. Its administration is always arbitrary and capriciousâ. (Sources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11/05/2012)