May 29 Missouri should fund and operate its own
drug laboratory to mix lethal injections for executions, a move
that could help circumvent the problems it and other states are
having obtaining the drugs they need, the state's top prosecutor
said on Thursday.
Setting up a state laboratory would take compounding
pharmacies out of the system, and eliminate the secrecy about
where lethal injections drugs are coming from, said Missouri
Attorney General Chris Koster.
"As a matter of policy, Missouri should not be reliant on
merchants whose identities must be shielded from public view or
who can exercise unacceptable leverage over this profound state
act," Koster said in a speech to Bar Association of Metropolitan
St. Louis conference.
Missouri is one of several states wrestling with how to
proceed with executions amid a shortage of the drugs
traditionally used. The shortfall has emerged as pharmaceutical
manufacturers have grown reluctant to allow their drugs to be
used for executions.
The problems obtaining lethal drugs have caused states to
change the chemicals used, and to seek out chemicals from
compounding pharmacies, which have been only lightly regulated
by states and the federal government. The use of these
pharmacies has been the subject of several legal challenges in
Missouri and elsewhere.
The compounding pharmacies also typically do not want it
publicized that they are involved in providing the execution
drugs, and states like Missouri have refused to reveal where
they get the drugs they use in lethal injections.
But lawyers for inmates have challenged the secrecy of the
drug suppliers in court, arguing that the drugs being combined
and the protocols used could be subjecting inmates to illegally
A U.S. federal judge on Tuesday ordered a halt on all
executions in Ohio until the middle of August, to allow
condemned inmates there time to prepare legal challenges to the
state's plan to increase the dosages of drugs used when
administering lethal injections.
That ruling followed a lengthy Ohio execution in January
that used a never-before-tested combination of two drugs which
the state now plans to use in increased dosages.
The halt in Ohio also follows a botched execution in
Oklahoma last month that brought renewed scrutiny to lethal
injection, the preferred method of execution in the United
In his remarks on Thursday, Koster said that carrying out a
death sentence is a daunting state responsibility that should be
done with transparency. He also said that while it is legal to
keep secret the identity of the compounding pharmacies involved,
"it may not be prudent."
"Eliminating outside business interests from Missouri's
execution protocol would improve the high level of public
transparency that is demanded in the exercise of this
extraordinary state power," Koster said.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty
Information Center, which tracks executions nationwide, said he
knows of no state that mixes its own lethal drugs.
"It seems like a possibility, but defense attorneys would
raise the same questions they do now," Dieter said.
(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City, additional reporting
by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City; editing by G Crosse)