A Nevada judge has temporarily halted an execution, siding with a pharmaceutical company that filed suit over the state’s plan to use an experimental three-drug cocktail for the lethal injection.
New Jersey-based pharmaceutical manufacturer Alvogen filed an emergency lawsuit Tuesday, stating in court filings it doesn’t want its sedative midazolam used in “botched” executions.
Twice-convicted killer Scott Raymond Dozier, 47, was scheduled to die by execution Wednesday night. That’s now on hold after Clark County Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez sided with Alvogen in a Wednesday morning hearing.
“While Alvogen takes no position on the death penalty itself, Alvogen’s products were developed to save and improve patients’ lives and their use in executions is fundamentally contrary to this purpose,” the company said in its complaint.
In the past, states with the death penalty typically used a cocktail of drugs that included sodium thiopental for lethal injection. Shortages of the drug, which has seen its distribution greatly restricted by the European Union, have forced states to get creative ― often adopting what may be unconstitutional alternatives.
According to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, a widely cited resource on the subject, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma and Virginia have all used midazolam in three-drug executions in recent years, with questionable results. Witnesses to the botched executions say prisoners heaved and gasped for breath for as long as 15 minutes before dying, raising questions over whether the cocktails constitute “cruel and unusual” punishment.
In a twist, Dozier himself has argued for his own execution over the past year, telling the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “Life in prison isn’t a life.”
I’ve been very clear about my desire to be executed ... even if suffering is inevitable. Death row inmate Scott Raymond Dozier
Per The Associated Press, Dozier has repeatedly affirmed his desire to die, even if it’s painful. “I’ve been very clear about my desire to be executed ... even if suffering is inevitable,” he told a judge in November.
Even if, as has happened before with these experimental injections, the drug combination leaves him paralyzed yet still conscious, effectively suffocating him alive.
The manufacturers of the other two unapproved drugs the state intends to use have also objected to Nevada’s plans, though they’re not formally a part of Alvogen’s suit. They include Sandoz, producer of the muscle-paralysis drug cisatracurium, and Pfizer, which last year attempted to reclaim fentanyl from Nevada but was rebuffed. The painkiller, a synthetic opioid, is fatal in high enough doses.
The fact that fentanyl has never before been used in a lethal injection, let alone in combination with midazolam and cisatracurium, is of no concern to Dozier.
“I think it’s awesome,” he told Vice News in an interview that aired Wednesday.
Fentanyl alone is currently responsible for 46 percent of all overdose deaths in the U.S. ― a statistic Dozier is well aware of.
“I mean, it’s killing people all over the place,“ Dozier said. “You guys get pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl and just bang me up, man. Use a shit ton.”
Per the DPIC, Nevada spent $860,000 building a new execution chamber in 2016. The state last executed someone in 2006.