Arizona says it has supply of drug for executions

AP News
Posted: Mar 16, 2011 7:55 PM

Arizona still has a supply of a sedative used during executions and plans to use it in two upcoming cases, despite growing concerns about the drug in other states, officials said Wednesday.

Federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized Georgia's supply of sodium thiopental on Tuesday, but Arizona officials said Wednesday they hadn't been contacted by the agency.

Texas announced it had abandoned use of sodium thiopental because of supply concerns and would use another drug instead.

Arizona has enough of the sedative for at least three executions and plans to use it while executing Eric John King on March 28 and Daniel Wayne Cook on April 5, Assistant Attorney General Kent Cattani said.

The drug is the first of three administered during an execution.

Arizona officials have discussed what to do if it runs out of the drug, and would likely switch to another as Texas did or to a one-drug execution method recently adopted by Ohio, Cattani said.

Both options would be legal under Arizona law, but the state prefers to keep its present method because appeals courts have approved it.

"We certainly have had discussions about what the options would be if the drug is no longer available," Cattani said. "And I think the options are fairly straightforward and along the lines of what these other states are doing."

The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday denied two motions by King seeking to put his execution on hold, and it rejected a petition to review his case. One additional request for reconsideration is pending at the trial court.

King, 47, was sentenced to death after he was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in a 1989 Phoenix convenience store robbery.

On Wednesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to stop Cook's execution, turning aside his arguments that the state's supply of sodium thiopental was possibly ineffective and could cause him pain.

His attorneys have also filed last-minute appeals with the state Supreme Court, arguing Cook had post-traumatic stress disorder and organic brain damage and the trial court unjustly declined to hold a hearing about his recent diagnoses.

DEA agents have not said exactly why they seized Georgia's drugs, except that there were questions about how it was imported into the U.S. Defense attorneys have claimed it came from a fly-by-night British supplier operating from the back of a driving school in a gritty London neighborhood.

Arizona has said it legally obtained its supply of the drug from Great Britain but has not disclosed the company manufacturing it.

State officials said anti-death penalty groups would likely pounce on the company and potentially cause it to stop making the drug.

Corrections spokesman Barrett Marson cited a state law that says the identity of anybody who participates or performs ancillary functions in an execution are confidential.