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Arizona DOC Invites Attorneys to Provide Execution Drugs for Their Clients

On February 15, 2017, The Guardian reported that the state of Arizona had unveiled a controversial new death penalty plan. A provision of the state’s execution protocol now invites attorneys representing death row prisoners to provide prison officials with the execution drugs pentobarbital or sodium pentothal, if they can obtain them “from a certified or licensed pharmacist, pharmacy, compound pharmacy, manufacturer, or supplier.”

The BYOED (bring your own execution drugs) policy was described by Megan McCracken as “unprecedented, wholly novel and frankly absurd.” McCracken, a lethal injection expert at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, added, “A prisoner or a prisoner’s lawyer simply cannot obtain these drugs legally, or legally transfer them to the department of corrections, so it’s hard to fathom what the Arizona department was thinking in including this nonsensical provision as part of its execution protocol.”

Dale A. Baich, an assistant federal public defender, said he was “at a loss” to explain the unusual method for supplying lethal injection drugs. “If the state wants to have the death penalty it has the duty to figure out how to do it constitutionally,” he stated. “It can’t pass that obligation on to the prisoner or to anyone else.”

There were 119 prisoners on Arizona’s death row as of March 2017; the state has not executed anyone since the botched lethal injection of prisoner Joseph R. Wood in 2014. Wood took nearly two hours to die and reportedly snorted and gasped during his prolonged execution. [See: PLN, Sept. 2016, p.52].