A pharmacy in Oklahoma recently revealed that they will not provide the drugs needed for the execution of a Missouri inmate on death row. According to court documents, the pharmacy “The Apothecary Shoppe” located in Tulsa, Oklahoma will not prepare or provide the drug “pentobarbital” or any other drugs necessary for the execution of the inmate scheduled for February 26 later this month.
Michael Taylor, the 47-year-old Missouri inmate, plead guilty to abducting, raping and stabbing to death 15-year-old Ann Harrison in Kansas City in 1989. Taylor had originally been scheduled for execution February 2006, but successfully appealed for a stay of execution to be postponed on grounds of that the lethal injection should be considered a form of cruel and unusual punishment that could cause him “inhumane pain.” The case and the appeal worked its way up to the United States Supreme Court where it was officially postponed by a six to three vote in February 2006.
Taylor’s lawyers cited two executions which did not go as planned, both of which had used “pentobarbital” in their injections. One was the January 9 execution of Michael Lee Wilson earlier this year at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary – after twenty seconds of receiving the injection, Wilson said “I feel my whole body burning.” Taylor’s lawyers also cited the execution of Eric Robert, whose execution went awry in South Dakota in October of 2012. After being injected with an injection that included “pentobarbital” Robert “gasped for air” and his skin “turned a purplish hue.” It took 20 minutes after the injection for authorities to finally declare Robert dead.
In addition to not providing the drugs needed in the Taylor’s execution, the Oklahoma Pharmacy has not yet acknowledged that it supplies “pentobarbital” to Missouri for use in executions because of a Missouri law requiring the identities the members of the state’s execution team to be kept confidential.
Taylor’s lawsuit contesting the Oklahoma pharmacy questions whether or not the pharmacy can legally produce and deliver “pentobarbital.” The pharmacy is not a registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a licensed drug manufacturer. “The Apothecary Shop” bought the exclusive rights to the drug in 2012 when it was formerly manufactured under the name “Nembutal” by a Danish drug manufacturer.
Although the drug is necessary in the specific lethal injection given in Missouri executions, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon commented last week that the state has other drugs that it can use to humanely carry out Taylor’s execution. Nixon explained that regardless whether or not the prison had the “pentobarbital”, the Department of Corrections “is prepared to carry out that execution.”
Fourteen states have used “pentobarbital” in the lethal injection of inmates. Although the pharmacy in Oklahoma will not provide the drugs necessary for Michael Taylor’s execution in Missouri, there are other combinations of drugs that can be used in lethal injections. The first execution by lethal injection took place in Huntsville, Texas in December 1982. The injection used a combination of sodium thiopentol, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. Although Taylor plead guilty of raping and murdering Ann Harrison, he and his lawyers continue to fight against the use of “pentobarbital” in his execution.
By Tyler Shibata