Nevada judge halts use of drug in planned execution

Jeremiah Miller is shown in a portrait obtained through Clark County District Court's evidence vault. Miller was killed by Scott Dozier in 2002

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A condemned killer in the USA who had given up on appeals against his execution on Wednesday received an 11th-hour reprieve after a a pharmaceutical company sued to prevent the use of one of its drugs in the lethal injection process.

According to the pharmaceutical company, the state obtained their drug illegally, and Alvogen wants that drug returned to them.

Pharmaceutical companies have resisted the use of their drugs in executions for 10 years, citing legal and ethical concerns. "A third company, Pfizer, a year ago demanded Nevada return the third drug intended for use in the execution, the powerful opioid fentanyl".

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

Dozier, 47, was convicted of killing a man in a Las Vegas hotel, cutting him into pieces and stealing his money in 2002. Although Dozier waived his appeals in 2016 and told reporters he wishes to be put to death rather than held in prison, human rights advocates have not wavered in opposing plans for his execution.

A federal judge has called a hearing just hours before the killing is due to take place to listen to a demand by the drug manufacturer Alvogen for a block on the use of its sedative, midazolam, in putting to death Scott Dozier for murder. Uses of midazolam in other states "have been extremely controversial and have led to widespread concern that prisoners have been exposed to cruel and unusual treatment", Alvogen said. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, eight states now have carried out executions using a single drug _ an anesthetic _ and six others plan to do so if necessary.

In the past, states with the death penalty typically used a cocktail of drugs that included sodium thiopental for lethal injection.

Stocks of the drugs commonly used in executions have been dwindling as their producers have refused to supply them to prisons. That drug has become controversial for its use in executions, and Alvogen highlighted some of those incidents in court, including the bungled 2014 Oklahoma execution that saw an inmate grimace and kick, an Arizona execution that same year that took almost two hours and the 2016 Alabama execution that had witnesses recounting that the inmate coughed and heaved.

Following his arrest on June 25, 2002, Dozier was connected to another crime, the murder of Jasen "Griffin" Green, whose remains had been found in a plastic container in the desert north of Phoenix a year earlier.

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She said that has virtually closed the pipeline on states accessing those drugs and forced them to turn to domestic pharmaceutical companies. A lower court issued a temporary restraining order in that case, but the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned that decision.

That's why it is accusing Nevada of illegitimately acquiring the midazolam it planned to use to execute Dozier.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the state of Nevada; the Nevada Department of Corrections, its director and medical examiner; and the execution's attending physician, who has not been identified.

It could now be several months before his execution is scheduled again.

Lawyers for Alvogen, the maker of Midazolam, argued in their brief that the Department of Corrections obtained Midazolam through a third party _ Cardinal Health _ without disclosing that it was to be used for executions. The drugs include a powerful synthetic opioid that has been blamed for overdoses nationwide. 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. Miller had come to Nevada to buy ingredients to make meth.

There's a limit to how much artwork and exercise a person can do in prison, Dozier said in court hearings and letters to Clark County District Judge Jennifer Togliatti, who postponed his execution past year.

The state high court in May decided on procedural grounds that the execution could go forward but did not review the three-drug protocol that death penalty experts have characterized as experimental and risky.

Midazolam has been used with inconsistent results in states including Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida and Ohio.

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