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Lethal Injection

Last-Minute Pharmacy Switch ‘Sordid,’ Death-Row Inmate Argues

Lawyers for a Missouri prisoner on death-row slammed the state Thursday for refusing to identify the new pharmacy that is supplying the drugs for his lethal injection next week.

"Utterly nothing is known about this pharmacy," the defense said in court papers, saying the secrecy deprives inmate Michael Taylor of the right to investigate the source of the chemicals.

Taylor, who was sentenced to death for raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl, got one compounding pharmacy in Tulsa, Okla., to agree not to supply pentobarbital to the prison by suing them.

The state then turned around and said it had found a new pharmacy to buy the lethal dose and planned to proceed with the Feb. 26 execution.

"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–especially where, as here, the drug is effectively unregulated and experimental and has already provided cause for alarm," Taylor's legal team wrote.

They cited the case of Michael Wilson, who reportedly said, "I feel my whole body burning,” after he was given an injection cocktail that included pentobarbital.

Death-penalty states are scrambling to obtain drugs because the manufacturers refuse to sell them for executions. Some have turned to compounding pharmacies, which are less regulated, but even some of those are now deciding the sales are not worth the hassle and controversy.

The court has not ruled on the request for a stay of execution in Taylor's case.

Image: Michael Anthony Taylor
Michael Anthony Taylor is scheduled for execution Feb. 26. Missouri Correctional Office via AP file