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    Breaking News: DEA seizes Georgia's execution drugs

    posted Mar 15, 2011, 8:36 PM by Kathryn Hamoudah   [ updated Aug 31, 2012, 8:29 AM by GFADP staff ]

    There has been a major development regarding Georgia’s death penalty.
    Earlier today, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrived at the
    Georgia Department of Corrections and confiscated their supply of sodium
    thiopental, one of the three drugs used in Georgia’s lethal injection
    procedure. This development comes in the wake of a series of litigation
    that identified Georgia procured its supply of the drug from a fly-by-night
    shop located in the back of a driving school in England. These black market
    drugs were used to carry out the executions of Georgians Brandon Rhode and
    Emmanuel Hammond.  Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty members
    have repeatedly spoken out about our concerns about Georgia using such
    shady drugs while taken a person’s life.

    This story has national significance, as there has been a nationwide
    shortage of sodium thiopental that started in 2010 leaving many other
    states in similar positions to Georgia. In the coming days we hope to learn
    what the impact of today’s action by the DEA will mean for Georgia and the
    rest of the country. We will keep you posted.

    Below is more information from the Associated Press and a statement from GFADP.

    GFADP Chairperson Kathryn Hamoudah comments on today’s developments:

    “Today’s action by the DEA provides yet another reason why the state has no business taking the lives of Georgians. Like in the Troy Davis case, once again, the arbitrary and cruel nature of Georgia’s death penalty has fallen under national scrutiny

    We would have hoped that Georgia would have had the foresight and decency to halt executions in light of the national and international concerns about the source and viability of lethal injection, .Instead, the Georgia Department of Corrections went around the law to buy questionable drugs and then used them to extinguish two men. Now, federal intervention has forced Georgia to give up its black market drugs.”

    APNewsBreak: DEA seizes key execution drug in Ga.

    © 2011 The Associated Press

    March 15, 2011, 7:53PM

    ATLANTA — The Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday seized Georgia's
    supply of a key lethal injection drug less than two months after the state
    executed a man who unsuccessfully argued it was bought from a
    "fly-by-night" supplier in England.

    Agency spokesman Chuvalo Truesdell wouldn't elaborate on exactly why the
    DEA wanted to inspect Georgia's supply of sodium thiopental, a sedative
    that is part of a three-drug cocktail used in executions that has been in
    short supply since the sole U.S. manufacturer stopped making it.

    "We had questions about how the drug was imported to the U.S.," he said.
    "There were concerns."

    No more execution dates in Georgia have been scheduled and it's unlikely
    any will be set before the issue is resolved. Georgia Attorney General's
    Office spokeswoman Lauren Kane said prosecutors couldn't ask a judge to set
    executions if corrections officials didn't have the necessary supplies to
    carry one out.

    Georgia's stockpile of the drug has been a target of death row inmates and
    capital punishment critics because corrections officials released documents
    this year showing the state obtained the drug from Link Pharmaceuticals, a
    firm purchased five years ago by Archimedes Pharma Limited. Both are
    British firms.

    The drug was used in January to execute Emmanuel Hammond, 45-year-old man
    convicted for the 1988 shotgun slaying of an Atlanta preschool teacher. His
    attorneys sought a delay to gather more information on how the state
    obtained the drug, claiming in court documents it came from a "fly-by-night
    supplier operating from the back of a driving school in England." They said
    the drug could have been counterfeit.

    The U.S. Supreme Court, as well as lower courts, rejected Hammond's

    Joan Heath, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Corrections, said
    state officials were not concerned with the quality of the drug.

    "We contacted the DEA and asked them for a regulatory review, and that's
    what we're doing," she said. "We're going to make sure we're in regulatory
    compliance with the DEA over how we handle controlled substances."

    Hammond's attorney, Brian Mendelsohn, declined to comment.

    The most recent complaint was filed by Roy Willard Blankenship, a death row
    inmate who in February wanted a judge to call off his execution until the
    state released more details of its 20-gram supply of sodium thiopental. The
    complaint contended that an expired drug may not fully put Blankenship to
    sleep — which could make his death extremely painful.

    Link Pharmaceuticals didn't exist in 2010, and its name hasn't been on
    labels since May 2007, the lawsuit said. Sodium thiopental typically has a
    shelf life of four years, meaning even the state's newest supply would
    expire in May of this year, the lawsuit claims.

    A federal judge rejected Blankenship's arguments as "nothing more than
    unreasonable speculation." He added that even if Blankenship could prove
    the supply expired, he failed to show it "creates a risk that is sure or
    very likely to cause serious illness or needless suffering."

    The shortage has delayed executions in several states and an Associated
    Press review found that at least five states — Arizona, Arkansas,
    California, Georgia and Tennessee — had to turn to England for their supply
    of the drug. Nebraska, meanwhile, secured a stockpile from an Indian firm.

    Truesdell, the DEA spokesman, said he was not certain if other states'
    supplies of sodium thiopental were also being collected by the agency.
    Officials in Arkansas and California said authorities have not seized their

    Defense attorneys were elated by the news.

    "We commend the DEA for forcing the Department of Corrections to
    immediately cease using black market execution drugs," said William
    Montross, an attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights, which had
    sought to delay Blankenship's execution.

    "It is an incredible relief that this federal agency has stepped up and
    intervened where the state and federal courts have turned a blind eye to
    the obvious problems with the procurement and use of these drugs."