Published: Fri, July 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Judge bans drug in Nevada protocol, effectively delaying execution

Judge bans drug in Nevada protocol, effectively delaying execution

A Nevada judge has temporarily halted an execution, siding with a pharmaceutical company that filed suit over the state's plan to use an experimental three-drug cocktail for the lethal injection. During a hearing Wednesday, Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez, who presides over the civil division of the district court in Clark County, barred the state from using its supply of midazolam in Dozier's execution, according to a court spokeswoman.

Last year, a pharmaceutical company sued the state of Arkansas over drugs used in its lethal injections, but was unsuccessful.

"I've been very clear about my desire to be executed ... even if suffering is inevitable", Scott Raymond Dozier said in a handwritten note to a state court judge who postponed his execution last November over concerns that the untried drug regimen could leave him suffocating, conscious and unable to move a muscle.

The condemned man was sentenced to death in 2007 for a first-degree murder conviction in Nevada following a previous second-degree murder conviction in Arizona.

Drug maker Alvogen alleges the state illegitimately obtained one of its execution drugs and says that the drug combination proposed is untested.

If Dozier is put to death on Wednesday, it would be Nevada's first execution since 2006 and the 13th since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The state is expected to appeal the judge's order to the state Supreme Court, and the judge in Las Vegas has scheduled a September 10 hearing involving drug company attorneys.

The Nevada department of corrections said it had no comment on the lawsuit.

"Midazolam is not approved for use in such an application", the lawsuit said. Other manufacturers refuse to sell drugs used in executions.

This is the second lawsuit of its kind in the US from a pharmaceutical company, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks data about the death penalty and has criticized the way capital punishment is administered in America.

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In 2005, Dozier was sentenced to 22 years in prison for shooting to death another drug-trade associate, 26-year-old Jasen Greene, whose body was found in 2002 in a shallow grave outside Phoenix.

Pfizer, the global drug giant, has been demanding Nevada authorities return stocks of Valium and a powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl it also produces. Under Nevada's new execution protocol, the inmate is next given fentanyl and then cisatracurium, one to slow his breathing, the other to stop it.

"While Alvogen takes no position on the death penalty itself, Alvogen's products were developed to save and improve patients' lives and their use in executions is fundamentally contrary to this objective", Alovgen lawyers wrote.

Midazolam, which the World Health Organisation counts on its list of essential medicines, has been implicated in a number of botched executions in the US.

The lawsuit names the director of Nevada's department of corrections, James Dzurenda, and the state's chief medical officer, Dr Ihsan Azzam, as conspiring to buy the midazolam along with an unidentified doctor who will participate in the execution.

The Nevada Department of Corrections released this photograph of midazolam it purchased as one of three drugs used in an execution.

"The plaintiff has a reasonable probability that it will suffer damages to its business reputation which will impact investor relations and customer relations", Gonzalez said in her ruling, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. But the state has so far refused to do so. A witness testified that Dozier used a sledgehammer to break Greene's limbs so the corpse would fit in a plastic tote that Dozier used to transport meth, equipment and chemicals.

In court papers, Alvogen also cited instances in Alabama, Arizona and Oklahoma in the past few years in which inmates given midazolam were left gasping or snorting, appeared to regain consciousness or took an unusually long time to die. His decapitated torso was found in a suitcase in an apartment building trash bin, also missing lower legs and hands.

Dozier, a former stripper and ice dealer, has said he doesn't care if the deadly combination of three drugs hurts, he just wants to die.

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