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Nevada Judge Halts Execution Set To Use Experimental Drug Cocktail

12 July 2018

It is the first case in which an execution has been halted by a lawsuit from a drugmaker, death-penalty experts said.

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.

Pfizer protested a year ago, but Nevada refused the pharmaceutical company's demand to return the diazepam and fentanyl it manufactured.

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

Pharmaceutical companies have resisted the use of their drugs in executions for 10 years, citing both legal and ethical concerns.

"NDOC has been advised not to comment on the lawsuit", department spokeswoman Brooke Santina said in an email Tuesday. Today's execution would be the first time in 12 years that Nevada is carrying out the death penalty.

This is the second lawsuit of its kind in the US from a pharmaceutical company, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks data about the death penalty and has criticized the way capital punishment is administered in America.

Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez of the Eight Judicial District Court issued a temporary restraining order halting the use of the drug after the company said Nevada obtained it through "subterfuge". "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.

The drug company that creates the sedative Midazolam, which was expected to be one of three drugs used in the execution, sued the State of Nevada and the Department of Corrections, claiming Alvogen was misled in what the drug would be used for.

"We're glad that the state is being held accountable and that the information regarding these execution drugs and how the state plans to proceed is open and transparent", she said.

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Alvogen's objections were aired at a hearing that unfolded less than 11 hours before Dozier was to be put to death with a three-drug injection never before tried in the U.S.

It was not immediately clear if the filing would stop the execution scheduled at Ely State Prison, 250 miles north of Las Vegas.

Jordan T Smith, an assistant Nevada solicitor general, countered at Wednesday's hearing that Nevada did not put up a "smokescreen" or do anything wrong in getting the drugs.

Alvogen's midazolam was substituted in May for Nevada's expired stock of diazepam, commonly known as Valium. Earlier that year, another inmate, Clayton Lockett, had been injected with midazolam, but instead of becoming unconscious, he twitched, convulsed and spoke. Under Nevada's new execution protocol, the inmate is next given fentanyl and then cisatracurium, one to slow his breathing, the other to stop it.

The twice-convicted killer in Nevada has said he prefers death to life behind bars. He said drugs ordered by the state prison system are regularly shipped to Las Vegas.

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 a year ago.

Dozier was sentenced to die in 2007 for first-degree murder with a deadly weapon and robbery with a deadly weapon in the slaying of Jeremiah Miller. The victim's torso was found in a suitcase dumped in a trash bin in Las Vegas, according to the Nevada Department of Corrections.

Miller had come to Nevada from Phoenix to buy ingredients to make meth.

In the Arizona case, Dozier was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the shooting and mauling of 26-year-old Jasen Greene, whose body was found in 2002 in a shallow grave outside Phoenix. A witness testified that Dozier used a sledgehammer to break Greene's limbs so the corpse would fit in a plastic tote that Dozier used to transport methamphetamine, equipment and chemicals.

Though Dozier dropped attempts to save his own life, he allowed federal public defenders to challenge the execution protocol. They argued the untried three-drug combination would be less humane than putting down a pet. The state said it would explore whether it could appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Nevada Judge Halts Execution Set To Use Experimental Drug Cocktail