Alabama has one of the highest execution rates in the country, but it is running out of a critical lethal injection drug, which may stall scheduled executions. According to reports, death penalty experts are not sure what the state will do to replace the lethal injection method. Historically, many death penalty practices and procedures have been shrouded and secrecy, making it even more difficult to ascertain the next steps for the state. Reports indicate that the state has run out of pentobarbital, the painkiller that is injected into death-row inmates prior to execution.
Capital punishment is a controversial issue in Alabama and nationwide. While many states have banned the death penalty, Alabama continues to use lethal injection as the harshest form of punishment. Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of individuals who have been accused of a crime. In the most serious cases involving violent crimes and homicide, our legal team is prepared to take every necessary step to reduce charges and penalties. We are also abreast of developments in criminal law that impact sentencing in Alabama and nationwide.
Many of the drug companies that have supplied death penalty states with drugs necessary for lethal injections have ceased providing them to departments of correction. A large number of these drug companies are in Europe, where capital punishment is mostly banned. These companies as well as at least one other American companies have publicly stated that their drugs were never intended to be used for executions.
Alabama has been notorious for a secrecy policy that may become law. The Alabama House of Representatives has already passed a bill that would prevent the release of names of those who perform executions. It would also prohibit the release of names or businesses that supply the drug. This effort to codify the secrecy policy has called into question the use of the drug, as well as the drug-shortage.
Currently, this information is not protected by state law; however the Department of Corrections has resisted releasing it. Numerous publications and news sources have requested information that has been denied, citing a gag order that doesn’t actually apply, according to lawyers in the case. Death penalty states have routinely made legislative efforts to prevent the release of information related to executions. Advocates for these policies claim that they protect suppliers and executioners against harassment. Some of these secrecy laws—including a similarly worded bill in Oklahoma—have been thrown out.
Alabama combines a dose of pentobarbital as a painkiller along with injections of pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, a lethal cocktail that has been used for over two years. The Department of Corrections has not yet indicated whether the supply has completely run out or what the state will do to replace it. Other states seem to have found their way around the shortage, including Texas which claims to have found another supplier.
Inmates have sued finding new combinations to be cruel and unusual punishment. Legal analysts claim that that the drug shortage issue is quickly developing into a medical, legal and philosophical issue in Alabama and nationwide.