The death penalty has proven to be one of the more hot-button social issues of recent years. Numerous states have taken action to curtail executions within their borders. Other states proceed with executions unimpeded by any law. The method and manner of executions have also drawn scrutiny. Various stories have emerged about the suffering of inmates during the execution process. There have been attempts to stop these executions on the grounds that they constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
Another effort to slow executions has come from drug companies whose products are used as methods of executions by the state. Since capital punishment is nearly uniformly carried out by lethal cocktails, these products are necessary components of any execution. Drug companies have sued a state, seeking to prevent that state from using their products in executions.
Specifically, drug manufacturers sued the state of Nebraska in an attempt to prevent their products from being used in the execution of Carey Dean Moore. Nebraska had intended to use a combination of four drugs to carry out the execution. The lethal combination includes Diazepam, fentanyl citrate, cisatracurium and potassium chloride. Three of the drugs are manufactured by German company Fresenius Kabi, and the company believed that its drugs were to be used in the execution. The other drug is made by Sandoz Inc. This was the first time Nebraska had attempted to use this particular combination in an execution. In particular, this was to be the first execution carried out in the United States using fentanyl. Drug manufacturers have already suffered reputational harm due to the spike in overdoses from fentanyl.
Both drug manufacturers are domiciled in Europe, where capital punishment is both unpopular and illegal. Seeking to avoid a public relations hassle, Fresenius Kabi filed a complaint seeking to prevent Nebraska from using its drugs to carry out an execution. Sandoz filed a motion to intervene in the case, attempting to achieve the same result.
The execution was scheduled for August 14, and the drug companies were seeking a temporary restraining order attempting to halt the execution. Fresenius claimed that it specifically sells its products to wholesalers and distributors on the condition that they not be sold to prisons. Fresenius claimed that Nebraska obtained these drugs through illegal means given the restrictions that it places on the sale. The judge in the execution drug lawsuit denied the drug manufacturers’ request for an injunction. The judge held that there was no evidence that Fresenius manufactured the drugs that were to be used in the execution. Moreover, the judge stated that it was speculative that Fresenius would suffer financial and reputational harm. Since Nebraska voters reinstated the death penalty after the legislature overturned it, the judge believed that there was a public interest in going forward with the execution. The judge viewed the execution drug lawsuit as an end run around the referendum and therefore, would not grant the restraining order. Moore was executed four days after the judge refused to issue the injunction.
After being denied an injunction, the drug companies ultimately withdrew from the suit. The state’s supply of two of the drugs is set to expire during October. Since there are no scheduled executions before that date, the drug companies came to realization that no more of their products will be used in executions. The drug companies will attempt to ensure that no more of their products will be acquired by the state since their sales contracts prohibit the use of their drugs in executions. The end result is that states will have a more difficult time obtaining drugs to be used in the administration of capital punishment.
Learn more about Drug Lawsuits.