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Nevada plans lethal injection cocktail including fentanyl never used in U.S. for executions

July 6, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Nevada plans lethal injection cocktail including fentanyl never used in U.S. for executions

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The state of Nevada Tuesday announced plans to use two other drugs including fentanyl, which has never before been used in executions in the U.S. for the state’s first execution in over a decade.

The new lethal injection method will include the potent synthetic opioid that has been the main factor for the surge of fatal overdoses across the country.

A revised and redacted death penalty order for the scheduled July 11th lethal injection of Scott Raymond Dozier calls for injecting midazolam as a sedative, followed by the opioid fentanyl to slow and stop his breathing followed by a muscle-paralyzing medication called cisatracurium, according to KSNV.

The 47-year-old inmate is a twice-convicted killer who has been on death row since 2007.

The third drug became the center of a court challenge that delayed Dozier’s execution last year after a state judge in Las Vegas told corrections officials that they could not use it.

Clark County District Judge Jennifer Togliatti ordered after federal public defenders questioning the constitutionality of the execution protocol obtained a medical expert witness who said the drug could cause a person to be immobile while suffocating, which can “mask” indications of struggle or pain.

The state Supreme Court denied Togliatti’s ruling in May on procedural grounds. However, justices did not determine the constitutionality of a lethal injection method that critics describe as experimental and risky.

Seizures are a possibility when taking high doses of fentanyl, according to Dr. Jonathan Groner, an Ohio-based surgeon and lethal injection expert who said the concoction of drugs could lead to unexpected results.

“In anesthesia, more is not better,” Groner said to The Associated Press. “Side effects can happen. Extreme doses may cause a seizure or other problems. If a person has enough paralyzing agent, you won’t be able to tell they’re suffering.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada arranged a protest in state court in Carson City on Tuesday, charging that the protocol hadn’t been made public sooner and that there isn’t more time to evaluate the safety and legality of the execution method. The group earlier called the plan as less humane than the process used to put down a pet.

The court filing did not try to postpone the execution. However, ACLU attorney Amy Rose maintained that the public deserves to know how the state intends to execute a death row inmate.

The new protocol appears to be an updated version of a procedural layout submitted to Togliatti last September.

The new one, which was dated June 11th, blacks out some information, including times that family members, witnesses, and media may arrive at Ely State Prison.

It replaces midazolam for expired prison stocks of diazepam, a sedative known as Valium. The plan increases the number of possible injections of the sedative from four for diazepam to 10 for midazolam.

The recorded doses and delivery of fentanyl and cisatracurium were not altered.

Lawyers for the state and the former chief state medical officer who assisted with drawing up the protocol last year said the paralytic medicine is to guarantee that Dozier’s breathing muscles stop.

Dozier has repeatedly expressed that he wants to die and he doesn’t care if he suffers.

He refused an appeal of his conviction and death sentence, but authorities said he could change his mind up to the last minute, or even after the injections are given.

Dozier’s defense lawyer, Thomas Ericsson, said he knows of no such desire on his client’s part. However, the attorney said he would file a request to stay the execution if Dozier requests.

That possibility led Togliatti to hold a telephonic meeting with lawyers for all sides last week.

The judge is the only official who could stop the injection.

The last death penalty injection in Nevada was in 2006 when Daryl Linnie Mack volunteered for lethal injection for his conviction in a rape and murder in Reno stemming from 1988.

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