Louisiania government lied to hospital about death penalty drugs

This music video from the USA is called Gil Scott-Heron: Angola, Louisiana (1980). The lyrics are here.

By Tom Hall in the USA:

Louisiana procured death penalty drug through deception

13 August 2014

The Louisiana Department of Corrections deceived a hospital in southwest Louisiana into providing it with a drug to be used in executions, according to a report from the New Orleans-area investigative journalism outfit The Lens. The drug in question, hydromorphone, is part of the same two-drug protocol used in the drawn-out, agonizing deaths of Dennis McGuire in Ohio and Joseph Wood in Arizona earlier this year.

The fact that Louisiana has resorted to cloak-and-dagger methods to procure the supplies needed to carry out its state killings testifies both to the immense and growing opposition to the death penalty and to the collapse of any commitment to democratic rights or the rule of law in the American ruling class.

In late January, Elayn Hunt Correctional Center’s Medical Unit contacted Lake Charles Memorial Hospital to request 20 vials of hydromorphone, a potent painkiller and controlled substance. It is common practice for licensed pharmacies to sell drugs to other pharmacies, provided that they are needed to treat medical patients. As the only facility housing the state’s chronically or seriously ill inmates, Hunt Correctional Center would have had a plausible reason to request the drug. Indeed, the prison pharmacist explicitly told the hospital that the drug would be used for a “medical patient.”

However, the real destination for the drugs was the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola, where the state’s death row facilities are located, where it was to be used to execute Christopher Sepulvado, sentenced to death for the 1992 murder of his stepson, in only a week’s time.

Lawyers for Sepulvado were able to temporarily delay his execution, arguing that he had a right to know the manner in which he was to be executed. In May, after botched executions in Ohio and Oklahoma created a public uproar, the Louisiana Department of Corrections agreed to a six-month delay of Sepulvado’s execution in order to review the state’s lethal injection protocol.

The documents surrounding the state’s underhanded procurement of the execution drugs were made public last week as part of Sepulvado’s ongoing legal battle. By sheer chance the state, which, like other states, jealously guards the source of its lethal injection drugs, neglected to redact the name of the pharmacist at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital in official records.

Like many other states throughout the country that currently administer the death penalty, Louisiana has scrambled in recent years to find alternative sources of lethal injection drugs after the European Union banned the export of chemicals to the US to be used in executions. Louisiana had switched to the two-drug protocol involving hydromorphone and midazolam, a commonly available sedative, on January 27, only a day before the Hunt facility filed its request for hydromorphone with Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.

Before then, Louisiana had used a one-drug protocol involving pentobarbital, which had been in widespread use throughout the country since 2011 after the previous three-drug standard had become unavailable due to shortages. However, pentobarbital has also become scarce, and the state’s supply ran out last fall.

The impending shortage of lethal injection drugs sent the state into a flurry of improvisation to find a work-around in order to execute Sepulvado. In September, the state explored the possibility of obtaining pentobarbital from a Tulsa-based compounding pharmacy, the Apothecary Shoppe. In addition to the significantly lower quality of drugs produced at compounding pharmacies, such an arrangement would have been in flagrant violation of state law, which requires that suppliers be licensed in the state of Louisiana.

The Apothecary Shoppe has allegedly also supplied lethal injection drugs to Missouri, which has carried out seven executions in 2014, and Oklahoma, which botched its execution of Clayton Lockett last May (see: “Missouri carries out seventh execution of 2014”).

Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the Louisiana state legislature to protect the confidentiality of the sources of the state’s lethal injection drugs, in addition to allowing the state to legally purchase medication from out-of-state suppliers. The bill attracted overwhelming support within the state legislature before it was pulled at the last minute by its sponsor, Joe Lopinto (R-Metairie), after public outrage erupted in the aftermath of botched executions in Ohio and Oklahoma.

The dangers inherent in the ad hoc hydromorophone-midazolam protocol that Louisiana switched to were known even before the horrific executions in Ohio and Arizona. Deborah Denno of Fordham University told Mother Jones in November of last year, “We don’t know how these drugs are going to react because they’ve never been used to kill someone … It’s like when you wonder what you’re going to be eating tonight and you go home and root through your refrigerator to see what’s there. That’s what these departments of corrections are doing with these drugs.” …

The author also recommends:

Arizona’s two-hour execution and the brutalization of America
[26 July 2014]

The horror in Ohio’s death chamber
[22 January 2014]

ERIC HOLDER CALLS FOR MORATORIUM ON DEATH PENALTY The Attorney General, who stated he was not speaking for the administration, argued executions should pause until the Supreme Court rules on lethal injection. [HuffPost]

UTAH REINSTATED THE FIRING SQUAD AS A BACKUP EXECUTION METHOD “A law signed Monday by Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R) establishes firing squads as a secondary execution method in the event the Department of Corrections can’t obtain drugs for lethal injection…Utah was the last state to execute an inmate by firing squad. On Friday, the governor’s staff met with Randy Gardner, whose brother, Ronnie Lee Gardner, was the last Utah inmate executed by firing squad in 2010, The Associated Press reported. Randy Gardner reportedly told the governor’s staff he opposed bringing back the firing squad and recalled the pain of seeing his brother’s body ‘riddled with bullet holes.'” [Kim Bellware, HuffPost]

‘WHERE THE DEATH PENALTY STILL LIVES’ “As capital punishment declines nationwide, a tiny fraction of the country generates an alarming number of death sentences. [Here’s] what this new geography tells us about justice in America.” [NYT]


ARKANSAS EXECUTES INMATE FOR FIRST TIME IN 12 YEARS Ledell Lee was pronounced dead at 11:56 CDT. He is the first of eight men the state plans to execute before the end of the month, when its supply of one of the drugs in its three-part lethal injection protocol expires. [HuffPost]

Texas prisoner executed despite debunked forensic evidence pointing to his innocence: here.

12 thoughts on “Louisiania government lied to hospital about death penalty drugs

  1. If the alleged criminal is seen as a particular heinous individual, not only is the aim to kill this person as a state operation, also they have to face a death as punishment calculated for its cruelty and deterrent to those contemplating a crime as such.


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  3. UNITED STATES: Opponents of the death penalty testified yesterday against a fast-track Bill backed by state Republicans to shield the names of companies whose drugs are used to conduct executions.

    By insisting that information about lethal injection drug-makers cannot be disclosed in court the Bill raises “separation of powers issues and would likely be ignored by a federal judge,” state public defender Tim Young said.



  4. Executions start up in Oklahoma

    United States: Oklahoma was set to resume executions yesterday following a nine-month hiatus prompted by the botched killing of Clayton Lockett.

    Mr Lockett writhed and moaned after drugs were supposed to have rendered him unconscious. State authorities have modified the formula used to avoid such incidents.

    Frederick Warner was due to be executed at 6pm local time for murdering a baby girl in 1997.



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  7. Prosecutor taken off murder cases

    UNITED STATES: Florida Governor Rick Scott has removed prosecutor Aramis Ayala from 21 murder cases after she said she would no longer seek the death penalty.

    Governor Scott said that he was reassigning all her murder cases because her stance sent an “unacceptable message.”

    Ms Ayala cited “legal chaos” as the reason for refusing to pursue execution in the case of a murdered policewoman.



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