Arizona is totally OK with inmates' lawyers bringing their own lethal injection drugs


The state of Arizona has come up with an, er, creative solution to address its shortage of lethal injection drugs: asking attorneys to bring their own.

According to the Guardian, the Arizona Department of Corrections has released a new execution procedure for inmates on death row, part of which encourages lawyers to come prepared with such drugs "if" they can get them from a "certified or licensed pharmacist, pharmacy, compound pharmacy, manufacturer, or supplier."

But lawyers say that's a big "if" — which is part of the reason critics say the new protocol is as unethical as it is far-fetched.

"A prisoner or a prisoner's lawyer simply cannot obtain these drugs legally, or legally transfer them to the department of corrections, so it's hard to fathom what the Arizona department was thinking in including this nonsensical provision as part of its execution protocol," Megan McCracken, a lethal injection expert at the University of Southern California, Berkeley, told the Guardian

McCracken called the new protocol "unprecedented, wholly novel and frankly absurd."

Other lawyers pointed out that Arizona's suggestion that a lawyer help procure the drugs that would kill his or her client represents a conflict of interest: Attorneys' jobs are to represent the clients' interests, not the state's.

Pat Sullivan/AP

It's not just Arizona that's running out of lethal injection drugs. According to the Independent, Texas was just one injection away from running out of the state's execution drugs in March 2015.

Other states with capital punishment still on the books have faced similar difficulties following the fallout from 2010, when the UK restricted sales of lethal drugs to the United States as part of an effort to end the death penalty on a global scale.

States like Mississippi have attempted to sidestep the problem of lethal injections altogether, returning to draconian forms of state execution.

After facing criticism for its lethal injection protocol — which some have termed "a torturous death" due to the number of botched executions that have resulted from it — Republican legislators in the Mississippi House thought it best to have inmates put to death by electrocution, firing squad or gas chamber.

Dale Baich, an assistant federal public defender in Arizona, told the Guardian he contested Arizona's own skirting of the issue, saying it placed undue responsibility on inmates and their attorneys to guarantee humane executions.

"If the state wants to have a death penalty it has the duty to figure out how to do it constitutionally," Baich said. "It can't pass that obligation on to the prisoner or to anyone else."