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Arizona Prisons to Use New Lethal-Injection Drugs

The lethal injection room at San Quentin State Prison in California.
The lethal injection room at San Quentin State Prison in California.

The Arizona Department of Corrections will be using a new mix of drugs to carry out its lethal injections -- a mixture of drugs first used to execute an inmate in this country just two months ago.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced today that two drugs, medazolam and hydromorphone, will be used in executions instead of pentobarbital, which Horne says has become nearly impossible for the state to obtain.

Ohio executed a man earlier this year with these drugs, and Horne says Oklahoma will be using the same drugs in its execution protocol.

Here's how the Associated Press reported that execution in January:

A condemned man appeared to gasp several times and took an unusually long time to die -- more than 20 minutes -- in an execution carried out Thursday with a combination of drugs never before tried in the U.S. . .

McGuire, 53, made loud snorting noises during one of the longest executions since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. Nearly 25 minutes passed between the time the lethal drugs began flowing and McGuire was pronounced dead at 10:53 a.m.

Executions under the old method were typically much shorter and did not cause the kind of sounds McGuire made.

There's a shortage of the old drug because the Danish manufacturer stopped selling it to U.S. prisons, reportedly due to public pressure (capital punishment's outlawed in Denmark).

In some states, "compounding pharmacies" have been providing prisons with the drug, but pharmacists may not want to participate in an execution. Horne, in a statement, says "pharmacies in Texas and Oklahoma that had been providing pentobarbital for executions are now refusing to provide it after their identity was released publicly and they began to receive threats."

Arizona law allows such information to be kept confidential, Horne says.

Arizona has no scheduled executions, but there are 121 people on the state's death row.

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