Filing: Missouri finds new execution drug supplier

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri has found a new supplier of its execution drug, days before convicted killer Michael Taylor is scheduled to be put to death, according to a court document filed on behalf of Attorney General Chris Koster.

The Missouri Department of Corrections uses pentobarbital in executions. On Monday, a Tulsa, Okla.-based compounding pharmacy reached a settlement in a suit filed by Taylor and agreed that it won’t provide the drug for the execution scheduled for 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

State officials said that despite the agreement, the execution was still planned. They didn’t say what drug would be used.

Taylor’s attorneys asked the U.S. District Court in Kansas City for a stay over concerns that Missouri would go to its backup plan and use a combination of midazolam and hydromorphone. Use of that combination raised concerns in January after it took 26 minutes for Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire to die. He made snorting and gasping sounds during the process.

In response to the stay request, Koster’s office said in a court filing on Wednesday that Missouri has arranged for a different pharmacy to provide pentobarbital. The pharmacy was not named — Missouri’s execution protocol provides for anonymity of the drug supplier.

“There is no reason to believe that the execution will not, like previous Missouri executions using pentobarbital, be rapid and painless,” the court filing read. A spokeswoman for Koster declined comment. Messages seeking comment Thursday from corrections department spokesmen were not returned.

Attorneys for Taylor responded in a filing on Thursday that it would violate Taylor’s constitutional rights to execute him without an opportunity to check the background of the new pharmacy for possible past violations, how it tests its drugs, and other issues.

“Whether one supports or opposes capital punishment, there is something sordid about rushing to execute a person less than a week after switching the supplier of the lethal drug,” Taylor’s attorney, Sean Kennedy, wrote.

Many death penalty states are scrambling to find execution drugs. Major drug companies refuse to sell to prisons and corrections departments because they don’t want their drugs used in executions. Some states have turned to compounding pharmacies, and many, like Missouri, refuse to name their suppliers.

A top corrections official, Dave Dormire, said in a deposition last month that Missouri has obtained midazolam and hydromorphone. The state revised its execution protocol to allow a combination of those drugs if “the department director determines that a sufficient quantity of pentobarbital is not available, or at any time the available pentobarbital is deemed unusable.”

Taylor and Roderick Nunley kidnapped Ann Harrison as she waited for a school bus near her Kansas City home in 1989. She was raped, stabbed and left to bleed to death in the trunk of a car.

Taylor was hours away from being executed in 2006 when the procedure was halted. The U.S. Supreme Court stopped his execution and said the three-drug lethal injection mixture the state used at the time could constitute a cruel and unusual punishment if used incorrectly.

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