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Arizona allows lawyers for death row inmates to supply lethal injection drugs

In this November 2005 file photo, Larry Greene, public information director of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, demonstrates how a curtain is pulled between the death chamber and witness room at the prison in Lucasville, Ohio. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

PHOENIX — As lethal injection drugs become more and more scarce in Arizona, the state’s Department of Corrections has begun allowing attorneys for death row inmates to bring their own drugs.

The Guardian reported Wednesday that the Arizona Department of Corrections’ latest protocol states that the inmate’s counsel can provide pentobarbital, a sedative drug, from a “certified or licensed pharmacist, pharmacy, compound pharmacy, manufacturer, or supplier.”

But if the counsel cannot provide pentobarbital, the department said they can provide the chemical sodium pentothal, an anesthetic, to continue with the lethal injections.

Lawyers, including lethal injection expert Megan McCracken, told The Guardian that the protocol is “absurd.”

“A prisoner or a prisoner’s lawyer simply cannot obtain these drugs legally, or legally transfer them to the department of corrections,” McCracken told the publication. “So it’s hard to fathom what the Arizona department was thinking in including this nonsensical provision as part of its execution protocol.”

Arizona’s struggle with obtaining lethal injection drugs began to surface in 2016, when it eliminated its use of the sedative midazolam as one of the drugs it relies on in carrying out executions.

State lawyers said at the time that they could not carry out executions because Arizona has no access to two other lethal-injection drugs.

Arizona tried to illegally import sodium thiopental in 2015 to use in executions, but the drugs were confiscated at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Executions in Arizona were put on hold after the July 2014 death of convicted killer Joseph Rudolph Wood, who was given 15 doses of midazolam in an execution that his lawyer said was botched.

After Wood’s death, several death row inmates filed a lawsuit against Arizona and the Department of Corrections seeking to change the drugs used and the procedure employed for executions.

There are currently 119 prisoners on Arizona’s death row, according to the state’s Department of Corrections.

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