UK Supplies Lethal Injection Drugs to Execute StranglerDeborah Denno in Express, October 28, 2010
A PRISONER on death row in the US was executed yesterday using lethal injection drugs supplied by Britain.
It is the first time America has ever imported drugs for an execution after the country “ran out” of sodium thiopental in the spring.
The fact that the deadly chemical was imported from a UK firm – as yet unnamed – caused widespread concern and almost halted the execution.
Jeffrey Landrigan, 50, who was convicted of the murder of Chester Dean Dyer in 1989, had won a stay over concerns about the legality of the substances used to kill him.
His lawyers had argued that the imported drug might not meet US standards and his planned execution in Arizona violated his constitutional rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.
Landrigan’s lawyers contended he could be suffocated painfully if the sodium thiopental did not render him unconscious.
But Supreme Court justices voted 5-4 to overturn the federal judge’s order postponing the execution. Sentence was carried out at 6.26am.
In 1989 Landrigan escaped from an Oklahoma prison where he was serving time for second-degree murder.
A month later he strangled Dyer in Arizona during an armed burglary. He was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.
Landrigan thanked his family yesterday in the execution chamber at the state prison in Florence, Phoenix, before saying his last words: “Boomer Sooner”.
The phrase is a cheer often used by fans of University of Oklahoma sports teams. His last meal consisted of steak, fried okra, French fries, strawberry ice cream and a Dr Pepper drink.
The lack of availability of sodium thiopental has meant that some condemned inmates could be allowed to live for up to 12 months longer than planned.
In response, some states have taken the unusual step of importing the drug.
Landrigan was the 24th person executed in Arizona since the state resumed capital punishment in 1992. There are currently 132 inmates on its death row.
Defending importing the killer drug, Tim Nelson, Chief Deputy Attorney General in Arizona, said: “This drug came from a reputable place. There’s all sorts of wild speculation that it came from a third-world country, and that’s not accurate.”
Britain outlawed the death penalty in 1964. Deborah Denno, an American law professor, said the move to import such drugs was raising many questions, including the drug’s effectiveness and how it should be handled.
If there were problems, it could serve as a basis for enormous lawsuits, she said.
“The impact could be huge,” Professor Denno added.
“The source of the thiopental is critical.”