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Drug shortage looms as Arizona close to 4 executions

PHOENIX — Four more Arizona death row inmates are close to execution
dates, but the state may have to scramble to get the drugs it needs to carry out
the sentences.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently turned away appeals in the four cases, putting
the inmates near the end of the line.

A shortage of the single drug that Arizona uses may force officials with the
Department of Corrections to find another drug or source because the sole
manufacturer of the drug pentobarbital has blocked sales for executions.

That leaves the Arizona Department of Corrections with few available choices: A
compounding pharmacy could mix up a batch of pentobarbital from its base
ingredients, the state could buy it outside normal distribution channels, or it
could switch to another drug or combinations of drugs, according to Dale Baich,
who leads the unit of the federal public defender’s office that represents
inmates on death row.

Any of the choices could set off another round of legal challenges, based on
what other state have seen, Baich said. The source of compounding ingredients
and their efficacy could be challenged, for instance.

Corrections spokesman Doug Nick told the Arizona Capitol Times the state will follow the law. Stephanie Grisham,
spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said the state is weighing its
options and considering the timing of the executions.

Arizona has seen similar legal challenges about the drugs it uses in its
executions.

The state switched to pentobarbital in 2011 after a shortage of sodium
thiopental threatened to sideline executions. Two inmates due for execution in
October challenged the department’s attempt to keep the name of the drug
manufacturer secret.

U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver ordered the department to reveal the
drugmaker and provide the expiration date of the drug that would be used.

The batch of pentobarbital that was used to execute Edward Schad and Robert
Jones last month expires this month, and additional factory-made pentobarbital
likely isn’t available because of the manufacturer’s sales ban.

The state has yet to ask the Arizona Supreme Court for a warrant of execution
for the four inmates whose appeals have been exhausted. The four are Pete
Rogovich, Roger Scott, Joe Wood and Kevin Miles.

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Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, http://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com

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