Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

State having trouble obtaining execution drugs

On November 20th Missouri plans to execute Joseph Franklin for a murder he committed in St Louis in 1977. But the state may not be able to carry out the execution due to complications with the formula used in lethal injections.

Franklin admits to a total of 15 murders – here’s a short bio of him on Franklin was responsible for shooting and paralyzing Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt. He’s a man with few supporters at this point.

But the state’s announcement earlier this year that it planned to use the anesthetic drug propofol to kill Franklin caused the drug’s manufacturer, the German company Fresenius Kabi, to object. Fresenius Kabi insists that propofol must not be used in lethal injections, that it was not designed for that use, and they decided to curb shipments. If Missouri had gone forward with using propofol and violating the company’s intended use, sanctions could have kicked in causing shortages of the important anesthetic in hospitals throughout the US.

So the state announced on October 22nd that they changed the plan to inject Franklin with pentobarbital instead. But there are issues with that drug too. The manufacturer has barred sales to prisons, so supplies are tricky for executioners to get their hands on. An added complication is the fact that older supplies of the drug are expiring.

And so it goes on. Manufacturers don’t want their products being used to kill people, but states with capital punishment need something that doesn’t violate the constitutions prohibition of “cruel and unusual” punishment.

The current plan held by Missouri is to use a “compounding” pharmacy to scrape together pentobarbital — sort of a Do It Yourself approach. But compounding pharmacies have issues with safety and contamination that is raising concerns, according to the Economist.



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