Death Penalty
12:58 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

New Report Calls Into Question Quality Of Execution Drug

Last night, the Missouri Attorney General's office attempted to convince a federal judge that the state's execution drug is pure and potent, by pointing to a testing report done by an anonymous laboratory. But lawyers representing the inmate say that report shows the opposite.

In a filing on Friday morning, inmate Herbert Smulls' lawyers said the analysis done by the testing lab calls into question the quality of the drug. The Department of Corrections is obtaining its execution drug from an out-of-state pharmacy that's not licensed in Missouri.

Compounded drugs vary in quality from batch to batch and have a significantly higher failure rate than manufactured drugs.

“In Missouri … a laboratory has done tests for purity, potency, sterility and the pH level of the chemical before Smulls' execution, and witnesses to past executions using compounded pentobarbital have observed no problems,” the state argued last night.

But a pharmacy expert for Smulls points out that in the testing lab's report, the lab acknowledges an unknown substance in the drug.

"This document notes that an unknown residual solvent was found in the sample that was tested, yet the report indicated that the sample passed," Larry Sasich, a pharmacy consultant wrote. "It is unacceptable by any standard to inject an unknown substance into a human subject."

Read through the filing or click "Notes" to see the important parts.

Based on a few clues in the reports, Smulls' lawyers believe the testing laboratory is Analytical Research Laboratories (ARL), located in Oklahoma City, OK. The execution drug is also made in Oklahoma.

ARL has faced controversy in the past, as the Washington Post has reported:

Oklahoma-based Analytical Research Laboratories (ARL) reported favorable test results for medications for the now-shuttered NECC, which produced the steroids that federal health officials say killed 64 people and sickened 686 other people last fall.

So far, ARL and the Missouri attorney general's office have not returned requests for comment.

"There is no way, at this point, to know the exact composition of the drug that will be injected into Mr. Smulls," Sasich argued. "There is a high likelihood that this drug may cause Mr. Smulls to suffer extreme pain and harm."

Smulls is set to be executed on Wednesday for the 1991 shooting of Stephen and Florence Honickman. His lawyers are attempting to convince a federal judge that, based on the problems with the drug, his execution would be a violation of the 8th Amendment.

Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter@csmcdaniel 

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