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Arizona executes killer by lethal injection

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona executed a convicted murderer by lethal injection on Tuesday in a case that stirred controversy after it emerged that one of the drugs being used to end the inmate’s life was obtained in Britain.

Jeffrey Landrigan, convicted of the murder of Chester Dean Dyer in 1989, was pronounced dead at 10:26 p.m. local time (6:26 a.m. British time on Wednesday) at a state prison in Florence, southeast of Phoenix, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Corrections said.

The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution, which had been due to take place on Tuesday morning.

A federal judge previously granted a stay and asked to know where the dose of sodium thiopental came from. The drug is used to render a condemned prisoner unconscious.

Arizona has no stock of the drug. The state’s attorney general, Terry Goddard, sparked controversy on Monday when he said it had been imported from Britain, although he declined to name the supplier.

Britain outlawed the death penalty, and has not carried out an execution since 1964.

A columnist at The Guardian had questioned whether it was criminal for a British firm to profit from the supply of drugs used in an execution.

Sodium thiopental, an anaesthetic, is the first of a sequence of three drugs administered in lethal injection that paralyse breathing and stop the heart.

Lawyers for Landrigan argued the drug might not meet U.S. drug standards if it was obtained abroad, and risked causing serious pain and suffering in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Landrigan, 50, was sentenced to death in 1990 for strangling Dyer, who was found dead by a co-worker on December 15, 1989, after he failed to show up for work.

He was the 24th person executed in Arizona since the state resumed capital punishment in 1992. There are 132 inmates on the state’s death row.

Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Additional reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Peter Cooney