Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why is Georgia's corrections department showing up on a Tulsa pharmacy's (and suspected lethal injection supplier) contract?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 1:03 PM

The Lens, a New Orleans-based news outlet, recently published an email exchange that took place last September between a Louisiana Department of Corrections warden and the Apothecary Shoppe, an Oklahoma compounding pharmacy that has been suspected of being involved in supplying lethal injection drugs.

That thread alone would be another state's problem, right? But wait: Apothecary Shoppe pharmacist D.J. Lees attached a non-disclosure agreement that contains the "Georgia Department of Corrections" on the form. That's raised questions over why the state department, which was once so hard up for lethal injection drugs that it purchased them from the back of a British driving school, is involved with the out-of-state pharmacy. See the embedded emails after the jump:

It has been widely reported over the past year that the Georgia Department of Corrections had been looking for a compounding pharmacy to supply pentobarbital, the state's preferred lethal injection drug. But a state law passed last spring allows for the state to keep secret its sources for execution drugs.

Without that information, it's nearly impossible to know how the drugs are being obtained. In the case of Warren Lee Hill, a mentally-disabled death-row inmate, his lawyers successfully called into question the reliability and safety of how he would be killed. The argument convinced Fulton County Superior Court Judge Gail Tusan to indefinitely extend Hill's stay of execution, which will remain in place until the Georgia Supreme Court hears the case in early 2014.

Georgia DOC spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan declined to confirm whether state officials acquired the drug from the Oklahoma compounding lab. All she would tell CL is that the department "legally procures the lethal injection drug that is used in court ordered executions." State law prohibits non-resident pharmacies from selling or shipping drugs to Georgia.

"The secrecy and lack of transparency that surround many states' execution protocols, Georgia's included, and procedures are deeply troubling," Kathryn Hamoudah of the Southern Center for Human Rights tells CL. "It is unacceptable for departments of corrections to hide information from the courts, prisoners, and the public about the drugs they will use in executions or to use drugs that do not come with assurances that they will work reliably and predictably."

We reached out to both the Apothecary Shoppe and Lees for comment on Monday. If we hear back, we'll post an update.

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