Friday, November 5, 2010

UK Abolitionists Fight Export of Execution Drug

Death penalty opponents, especially those opposed to getting drugs for lethal injection overseas, have an ally in Great Britain. According to, Reprieve, a death penalty opposition group,is seeking judicial review in the UK to halt the sale of the sedative sodium thiopental to the United States.

Sodium thiopental is one of three drugs used for lethal injection in most states. However, it is the single drug used for execution in Ohio and Washington. Reprieve is taking advantage of the shortage in America of sodium thiopental which has forced the postponement of executions in Oklahoma and Kentucky. However, an execution was carried out in Arizona with a drug presumably obtained in the UK.

The group first appealed to Vince Cable, the British Business Secretary, requesting that they stop shipping the drug to the US. Cable declined the request.

Reprieve has revealed that they are working on behalf of Tennessee death row inmate Edmund Zagorski. In 1983, Zagorski was convicted of killing two men during a drug deal. Zagorski faces execution on January 11, 2011. Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve characterized the sale of sodium thiopental, as a collection of blood money. There was no indication of what Smith would call the murder of two men during a drug deal-"legitimate business practice."

The drug shortage issue has lost some steam in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Landrigan v. Arizona. The high court, in a terse one-page order, agreed by a 5-4 decision with Arizona prosecutors that there was no reason to force the state to disclosure were the lethal injection drugs were obtained.

"There was no showing that the drug was unlawfully obtained, nor was there an offer of proof to that effect," the court order said.

Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and John Roberts were in the majority, lifting the stay. I wrote about Landrigan's execution last week,

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