Dec 20 Arizona has reached an agreement with
lawyers for death row inmates that would prohibit a sedative
that has been used in executions by lethal injection that took
longer than usual or were botched in several states.
According to the settlement filed late on Monday in a
federal court in Phoenix, Arizona "will never use again" the
sedative midazolam, or related products, as a part of a drug
protocol for lethal injections.
Midazolam is a valium-like drug its critics contend does not
achieve the level of unconsciousness required for surgery and is
therefore unsuitable for executions.
States have faced legal challenges on their lethal injection
mixes after a sales ban imposed by U.S. and European
pharmaceutical makers on chemicals states had once used.
"Time after time, midazolam has failed to keep condemned
prisoners adequately anesthetized and to bring about a quick,
humane death," said Dale Baich, one of the attorneys for the
seven death row inmates who brought the suit.
The Arizona Department of Corrections was not immediately
available for comment.
Midazolam has been used in executions in Arizona, Ohio and
Oklahoma. In some instances, witnesses said convicted murderers
twisted on gurneys before dying.
Its use was again questioned after an execution in Alabama
this month of a convicted murderer who heaved and coughed after
drugs were administered on the death chamber gurney for 13
minutes before dying.
Midazolam was used along with a narcotic in Arizona's last
execution, which was for convicted murderer Joseph Wood in 2014.
He was seen gasping for air during a nearly two-hour procedure
where he received 15 rounds of drug injections. Lethal
injections typically result in death in a matter of minutes.
Supporters of midazolam have said it is an effective
chemical, the use of which has been authorized by the U.S.
In a 5-4 ruling in June 2015 in support of midazolam,
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote that death row inmates
in Oklahoma challenging its use had, among other things, failed
to show there was an alternative method of execution available
that would be less painful.
This year, U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc.
halted sales of its products for use in executions over similar
concerns. This includes midazolam, pancuronium bromide, which
can be used as a paralytic agent that halts breathing, and
potassium chloride, which can cause cardiac arrest.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Grant McCool)