Nevada Execution Halted on Drugmaker's Lawsuit

Elias Hubbard
July 12, 2018

Scott Raymond Dozier, a twice-convicted killer, has said he prefers to be executed over living in prison.

Court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer says that some of the seven justices are in Chicago for a Nevada State Bar Association meeting, but that the court could meet by teleconference.

The state had not yet appealed by midday. The state said it would explore whether it could appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

This would be the first time that fentanyl, one of the central drugs in the United States opioid epidemic, has been used in an execution in the USA, and it likely would be a first for cisatracurium as well, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Hours before the execution is scheduled, a state judge will hold a hearing on a request by the drug maker Alvogen Inc.to stop the Nevada Department of Corrections from using its sedative midazolam in its three-drug execution cocktail.

Convicted murderer Scott Dozier has clearly and repeatedly stated that he wants to be executed. State officials could appeal right away to the Nevada Supreme Court.

The New Jersey-based drug company Alvogen said it does not want its drugs used in "botched" executions, according to court documents. Pharmaceutical companies have resisted the use of their drugs in executions for 10 years, citing both legal and ethical concerns. He has also said that he does not care if the execution is painful.

The judge ruled that based on that letter, Alvogen had a reasonable chance of winning its lawsuit, and she issued the temporary restraining order against the use of the drug. Gonzalez set a hearing in the case for September 10.

The lawsuit said that to perpetuate the deception, the authorities had the midazolam shipped to the department of correction's central pharmacy rather than to the prison where the execution is to take place.

The health care supply company McKesson filed a similar lawsuit in Arkansas past year, but that challenge was rejected.

Alvogen's objections were aired at a hearing that unfolded less than 11 hours before Dozier was to be put to death with a three-drug injection never before tried in the U.S.

This is the second lawsuit of its kind in the USA from a pharmaceutical company, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks data about the death penalty and has criticized the way capital punishment is administered in America.

The midazolam would be used to sedate Dozier before he is killed using fentanyl, a drug at the forefront of the USA opioid epidemic that was also allegedly obtained illicitly. The state refused, however.

The sedative is meant to render the inmate unconscious before he is administered the synthetic opioid fentanyl and then paralytic agent cisatracurium.

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".

"This whole action is just PR damage control", Mr Smith said of Alvogen.

Midazolam has been used as a replacement for Valium - diazepam - after Nevada's stocks of the sedative expired, a Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) release said.

The midazolam is expected to render Dozier unconscious before he is injected with the fentanyl.

David Juurlink, an expert in toxicology at the University of Toronto, told NPR that the role of fentanyl in this protocol is to sedate a person and stop their breathing.

Mr Bice said that Alvogen does not take a position on the death penalty itself but opposes the use of the drug in a way that is fundamentally contrary to the drug's goal - saving and improving patients' lives.

Midazolam has been used with inconsistent results in states including Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida and Ohio.

But Dozier, who has been on death row at Ely State Prison since 2007, has said he wishes to die.

In the November case, Dozier was sentenced to die for robbing, killing and dismembering 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller at the iconic (and now demolished) La Concha motel on the Las Vegas Strip. Miller's torso was later found in a suitcase in a trash bin, local media reported.

In 2005, Dozier was sentenced to 22 years in prison for shooting 26-year-old Jasen Greene, whose body was found in 2002 in a shallow grave outside Phoenix. A witness testified that Dozier used a sledgehammer to break Greene's limbs so the corpse would fit in a plastic tote that Dozier used to transport methamphetamine, equipment and chemicals.

He did, however, let federal public defenders challenge the execution protocol drawn up previous year by state medical and prison officials. The state last executed someone in 2006.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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