Saturday 29 January 2011

Arizona death-row inmate's lawsuit dismissed

Arizona death-row prisoner Daniel Wayne Cook lost another court battle this week in his attempt to prevent the state from using drugs obtained abroad in its lethal-injection execution process.
A federal judge on Wednesday threw out a civil-rights lawsuit filed by Cook's attorneys claiming that the anesthetic sodium thiopental could result in cruel and unusual punishment if the drug failed to work properly.
Cook, 49, was sentenced to death for murdering two restaurant co-workers in Lake Havasu City in 1987.

The Arizona Attorney General's Office has twice asked the Arizona Supreme Court to set a date for his execution, but the court has deferred the decision because of appeal issues related to lethal injection and Cook's mental health.
The federal court motion noted that drugs from other countries are not subject to scrutiny by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and therefore "do not have the same assurance of safety as drugs actually regulated by the FDA." If the anesthetic failed to function properly, the defendant would be conscious of suffocating to death from the second drug in the lethal injection procedure, and feel intense pain caused by the third.
But Senior U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Broomfield dismissed the motion, ruling that attorneys failed to prove the allegation.
The Federal Public Defender's Office filed an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday.
The use of thiopental for executions, which has been in short supply since spring, is under attack.
Arizona obtained the drug in September from a British pharmaceutical broker and used it to carry out the execution of Jeffrey Landrigan the following month.
Because capital punishment is illegal in Great Britain and much of Europe, the British government clamped down on companies exporting the drug to the U.S. Italy followed suit, and the German health minister has asked German companies not to sell the drug for executions.
Several states have imported thiopental from abroad, but questions linger as to whether the imports are legal. Earlier this month, the FDA, which as late as October vowed that the drug could not be imported, changed its policy to say it would exercise "enforcement discretion" in the matter.

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