Import Regulations Used as Delaying Tactic in Nebraska Execution Case

Posted 10 January 2012 | By Alexander Gaffney, RAC 

The state of Nebraska was the epicenter of a convergence between US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) import regulations and death penalty politics on 9 January.

Attorneys for death row inmate Michael Ryan had sued the state of Nebraska to produce documents proving that the state had legally obtained the execution drug sodium thiopental.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning produced documents Monday showing that Nebraska had legally obtained the drug from Naari AG, a Swiss company, through a third-party Indian company, Harris Pharma LLP.

Many companies refuse to sell the drug, which is used as a part of a three-drug cocktail used to execute inmates, to any source that intends to use the drug for execution purposes. The drug is no longer manufactured in the US, necessitating its importation.

Ryan's lawyers had argued that the state had procured samples that were "wrongfully diverted" and were thus imported in violation of FDA, DEA and US Customer and Border Protection (CBP) import regulations.

DEA has previously seized sodium thiopental stocks from states that had purportedly obtained sodium thiopental that had dubious pedigrees, delaying other executions.

Calling regulatory compliance into question to delay or halt executions could continue to gain prominence as a last-ditch effort for defense attorneys seeking to stay their client's execution date.

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