Nevada Judge Halts Execution Set To Use Experimental Drug Cocktail

Death row inmate Scott Dozier appears before Judge Jennifer Togliatti during a hearing about his execution at the Regional Justice Center on Monday Sept. 11 2017 in downtown Las Vegas. Richard

This undated Nevada Department of Corrections photo shows death row inmate Scott Raymond Dozier, who was convicted in 2007 of robbing, killing and dismembering a 22-year-old man in Las Vegas, and was convicted in Arizona in 2005 of another murder and dismemberment near Phoenix.

"I've been very clear about my desire to be executed ... even if suffering is inevitable", Scott Raymond Dozier said in a handwritten note to a state court judge who postponed his execution last November over concerns that the untried drug regimen could leave him suffocating, conscious and unable to move a muscle.

"The Midazolam has been used in other executions in half a dozen other states with really bad consequences- seriously prolonged executions, with gasping really tortuous effects", says Nancy Hart with Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

This would be the first time that fentanyl, one of the central drugs in the United States opioid epidemic, has been used in an execution in the USA, and it likely would be a first for cisatracurium as well, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

With manufacturers unwilling to sell any drugs to be used in executions, Nevada's Department of Corrections quietly purchased small doses of fentanyl from Cardinal Health over several months and plans to use the prescription painkiller in combination with paralytic drug cisatracurium and sedative midazolam in the state's first execution in 12 years, scheduled for Wednesday, per the Guardian and Vice. And on Wednesday, Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez "disallowed the use of the drug", effectively putting the execution on hold, The Associated Press reported.

The Nevada department of corrections said it had no comment on the lawsuit.

Togliatti invited state Supreme Court review, saying she expected the Nevada execution to be closely watched by officials in states that have struggled in recent years to identify and obtain drugs from pharmaceutical companies that don't want their products used for the death penalty. It also said it "does not accept direct orders from prison systems or departments of correction". But Dozier has waved appeals and said he wants to die so the combination of medicines to be used to kill him has not been examined in court.

But the company did not immediately ask to formally join Alvogen's lawsuit.

Many states are having difficulty obtaining the drugs for lethal injection cocktails, as manufacturers increasingly object to having their drugs used in this way. And Nevada is no exception.

Alvogen said the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of midazolam as therapy and any other use is an offence. "Not one response was received", according to a 2016 report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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It's unclear if there's enough opposition to stave off the execution, though the ACLU is looking into the legality of how Nevada obtained the fentanyl.

Dozier's execution would have been the first in Nevada since 2006, according to the AP. It's been postponed before.

Dozier is slated for execution Wednesday night at 8PM. The execution in Oklahoma was halted, but Lockett died after 43 minutes. "I just would rather be dead than do this".

Now, Dozier is what is known as a "volunteer", or a death row inmate who has abandoned further appeals.

Alvogen said in a statement that it was pleased with the ruling and will continue to work through the legal system to ensure its products are not used in executions.

The midazolam is expected to render Dozier unconscious before he is injected with the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, which has been blamed for overdoses nationwide but has not been used in an execution.

"It's somewhat ironic that at the same time that the Justice Department and states are talking about how unsafe fentanyl is, and how it's created a national public health emergency, that states are now turning to it as a supposedly safe way of killing prisoners", Dunham added.

In an interview that aired Tuesday on VICE News Tonight on HBO, Dozier appeared enthusiastic about the prospect of being executed using fentanyl.

"I think it's awesome. I mean, it's killing people all over the place", Dozier told the program.

Nevada's new execution protocol also calls for the use of fentanyl to slow the inmate's breathing and cisatracurium to stop his breathing.

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