Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Defense lawyers in three states (including Kentucky) urging DOJ to look into execution drug sources

Lawyers in 3 states want fed execution drug probe AP

Kentucky public defender David Barron said in a letter to the Justice Department that there were multiple questions about how CorrectHealth, a Stockbridge, Ga.-based company, got a supply of sodium thiopental to sell to Kentucky. Barron also wants to know if Kentucky officials complied with federal law when it contacted Kayem Pharmaceuticals in India.

Barron represents Ralph Baze, who was sentenced to death for killing a sheriff and a deputy.

"It is likely that illegally imported or possessed thiopental will be used in the execution of Mr. Baze and multiple other individuals on Kentucky's death row," Barron wrote.

Kentucky bought 18 grams of sodium thiopental - enough for three executions - in February from CorrectHealth, which is owned by Dr. Carlo Musso, who assisted Georgia in conducting executions. Musso didn't immediately return a telephone message but has previously denied selling the drug.

Eight days after getting the drug from the Georgia company, Kentucky officials contacted Kayem Pharmaceuticals in India, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. But the state opted not to buy the drug because it is sold in packs of 500 single-gram vials for about $5,000, which is more than the state needs.

"It would require us to alter our normal procurement process and would require Kentucky to obtain enough thiopental for more than 80 executions - a quantity which would expire long before it could be utilized," Kentucky Justice Cabinet spokeswoman Jennifer Brislin said.

Executions in Kentucky are on hold after a judge in September found problems with the state's protocol, a decision unrelated to the drug shortage.