Originally Posted by GØÐRËKR
Now that the one U.S. company that made a main ingredient used in lethal injections has decided to end production, where does that leave the executions planned in death chambers across the country?
Likely facing delays, as expected challenges play out in court and many states scramble to find an alternative.
"I guarantee litigation," death penalty proponent Dudley Sharp told AOL News. "There will be a slowdown."
"The history of death penalty litigation is to sue, sue sue. Delay, delay delay," said Sharp, formerly of the group Justice for All.
Death penalty opponents also expect delays.
"There's already been a shortage [of the drug], which has slowed down executions," Shari Silberstein, executive director of Equal Justice USA, which works to repeal capital punishment, told AOL News. "If states have to consider changing their protocols, that's a slow process and open to litigation."
There are 12 convicts awaiting the death sentence this year and four whose sentences have been stayed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Lethal injection is the primary method of execution in most of the 35 states that have capital punishment, with some offering secondary alternatives like hanging, electrocution and the gas chamber. Most states use a three-drug mixture for lethal injection that includes the drug sodium thiopental, a sedative.
Hospira, of Lake Forest, Ill., announced Friday that it will not resume making sodium thiopental. It planned to switch from a domestic to an Italian manufacturing plant, but Italian authorities wanted a guarantee that the drug would not be used in executions, The Associated Press reported
"We cannot take the risk that we will be held liable by the Italian authorities if the product is diverted for use in capital punishment," the company said in a statement. "Exposing our employees or facilities to liability is not a risk we are prepared to take."
The company had suspended manufacturing more than a year ago because of problems with raw materials suppliers, putting the drug in scarce supply, the AP said. Batches of the drug made before the suspension are set to expire this year.
The decision leaves states searching for an alternative drug.
"This is clearly going to cause a problem for a lot of states," Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, which is neutral on the death penalty issue, told The Washington Post. "It's not clear how this is going to play out, but for some states it's going to put things into limbo or continue a limbo."
There are other drugs, but the requirement for using one varies by state. Some states would need a new law while for others it'd be an administrative change, though either way could be challenged, experts said.
Texas, which has the nation's busiest death chamber, has enough sodium thiopental to execute the two inmates scheduled to die in February, but its supply expires in March, and there are two more executions scheduled for later in the year.
"We'll explore other options, including seeking an alternative source for the drug as well as exploring an alternative drug to use in the lethal injection process," Jason Clark, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told AOL News.
Silberstein thinks people are frustrated with capital punishment and says the lack of a lethal injection drug will only add to that concern.
"It's another thing that's going to make the system messier, longer and more complicated," she said. "Now adding another technical legal issue is just going to exacerbate people's existing frustrations."
Another death penalty opponent, Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said the company's announcement is another sign that the death-penalty system is broken.
"There are a lot of other problems with regard to the death penalty," she told AOL News. "This is just more ... evidence that it's a house of cards falling."
Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation and a death penalty supporter, said he doesn't think a supply problem will change public opinion on capital punishment, though delays may make some mad.
"The public is very much in support for the worst murders," he said. "Holding up executions makes most people angry. Victims suffer through decades waiting for these executions to come about."
He noted the switch in Oklahoma to the anesthetic pentobarbital and today Ohio also announced that it would use pentobarbital. Rushford predicted other states may seek to use that drug, too. "The drug issue is not going to be a problem," he said.
Lisa Flam, AOL News.