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Monday, January 24, 2011

Whuuuuut? of the day: Georgia's lethal injection drugs came from the back room of a British driving school?

At 7 p.m. tomorrow night, Emmanuel Hammond will be put to death for the 1988 kidnapping, murder and armed robbery of Atlanta pre-school teacher Julie Love.

A complicating factor: based on a review of Georgia Department of Corrections documents that were provided to attorneys with the Southern Center for Human Rights, the drugs that will be used in Hammond's execution were purchased from Dream Pharma Ltd. — a shady, unlicensed company that operates out of the back room of a driving school in London, England.

A SCHR press release explains:

At last Friday’s hearing, the Attorney General’s Office produced some of the requested GDOC records minutes before the hearing. In reviewing the provided documents over the weekend, Mr. Hammond’s attorneys discovered that the State of Georgia bought its lethal injection drugs from Dream Pharma Ltd, an unlicensed company operating from a back room within Elgone Driving School in London, England.

In a document presented to [Fulton County Superior Court Judge Michael] Johnson today, the London-based organization Reprieve stated that they consulted with the United Kingdom Counsel regarding the legality of Dream Pharma’s operation and expressed serious concerns as to whether the company is in compliance with British law or regulations and contacted the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates such companies. The MHRA conducted a site visit to Dream Pharma late last week for inspection to investigate whether the back of a driving school is an acceptable location for a pharmaceutical company under United Kingdom law, as there is not suitable storage facilities for drugs and to determine if the owner is a “responsible person” defined by the law to run such an operation. Results of this investigation are still pending.

The SCHR says it's questionable whether the chemicals GDOC obtained from Dream Pharma are, in fact, sodium thiopental, which Georgia law specifically requires be used in executions. Apparently, the labels on the boxes say "Link Pharmaceuticals," a company that was sold off all the way back '06. Says the press release, "The mislabeling on the boxes calls into question whether the drugs bought by DOC are real and/or expired."

Earlier this month, the Guardian reported that Dream Pharma shipped drugs to Arizona State Prison. The outfit's 50-year-old proprietor, Mehdi Alavi, claims he didn't know they were being used for State-sanctioned executions.

Judge Johnson opined today that revelations about the drugs' origins didn't justify a stay of execution. He also pointed out that the drugs that'll be used in Hammond's execution are from the same supply used to execute convicted murderer Brandon Rhode in September.

Since 2008, there's been a shortage of sodium thiopental in the U.S. so states have had to rely on foreign companies for the drugs needed to execute prisoners. The only domestic manufacturer of the drug, Hospira, just announced it was permanently halting production.

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