U.S. first fentanyl execution halted; Nevada illegitimately acquired drugs, court said


U.S. first fentanyl execution halted; Nevada illegitimately acquired drugs, court said

A Nevada judge is halting the use of a drug in the execution of a twice-convicted killer hours before he was scheduled to die by a first-of-its-kind lethal injection mixture.

The execution of Scott Dozier at Ely state prison, near the border with Utah, would have been the first time the potent drug driving the U.S. opioid crisis was used for lethal injection in the US. Pharmaceutical companies have resisted the use of their drugs in executions for 10 years, citing both legal and ethical concerns.

Todd Bice, an attorney representing Alvogen said the company's lawsuit was not about the constitutionality of the death penalty nor whether Dozier deserved the death penalty - it had exclusively to do with business.

Over the last decade, various American pharmaceutical companies have opposed the use of their products in lethal injections, causing a decrease in executions due to a lack of drug components. "Nevada Department of Corrections to use our midazolam product in an execution, we are exploring all potential avenues, including legal recourse, to prevent the improper use of our product in this particular execution", Alvogen spokesman Halldór Kristmannsson said.

Cardinal Health did not immediately respond to phone or email requests for comment.

Fordham University law professor Deborah Denno said numerous drugs previously used for executions were manufactured in European countries that don't allow the death penalty. The previous challenge, filed past year by a different company in Arkansas, was unsuccessful in halting that execution.

The legal battles between states and drug companies highlighted the opposition the businesses have shown to their chemicals being used in executions, a stance that has forced states to scramble to obtain the chemicals they want for lethal injections.

Drug company Sandoz wants to join New Jersey-based drugmaker Alvogen in its objection to the Wednesday evening execution of Scott Raymond Dozier.

If Dozier is put to death on Wednesday, it would be Nevada's first execution since 2006 and the 13th since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The pharmaceutical company Alvogen filed a challenge on Wednesday, accusing the state of Nevada of surreptitiously obtaining the sedative Midazolam for executions and saying that it did not want the drug used in executions. She says she did not know of any alternative.

Lawyers for Alvogen alleged that Nevada officials acquired Alvogen medicines "illicitly and through subterfuge", in the process violating state laws meant to tackle the opioid epidemic and prevent the misuse of risky drugs. The state said it would explore whether it could appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court. Pfizer protested previous year, but Nevada refused the pharmaceutical company's demand to return the diazepam and fentanyl it manufactured. In response, states including Ohio, Florida and Oklahoma have adopted or suggested new and untested drug combinations.

"Life in prison isn't a life", the 47-year-old inmate told the Review-Journal.

At the time of the trial, Dozier was already serving a 22-year sentence in Arizona for killing and dismembering 26-year-old Jasen Green in another drug-related murder.

There was a limit to how much artwork and exercise a person can do in prison, Dozier said in court hearings and letters past year, according to ABC News in the US.

Dozier, who attempted suicide in the past, has said he prefers execution to life behind bars.

Alvogen, in a statement after the hearing, said it was pleased Gonzalez granted a temporary restraining order blocking the use of midazolam in the execution, which was scheduled for Wednesday night.

Dozier was convicted in 2007 of the murder of Jeremiah Miller, who was robbed and shot to death in 2002 after traveling to Las Vegas, where Dozier had promised to help him obtain drugs to make methamphetamine.

States have been forced to adjust their methods as the drug supplies become tighter and more hard to obtain, however. Miller's torso was found inside of a suitcase dumped in a trash bin on West Flamingo Road. They argued the untried three-drug combination would be less humane than putting down a pet.