All states and the federal government use lethal injection as their primary method of execution. States use a variety of protocols using one, two, or three drugs. The three-drug protocol uses an anesthetic or sedative, typically followed by pancuronium bromide to paralyze the inmate and potassium chloride to stop the inmate's heart. The one or two-drug protocols typically use a lethal dose of an anesthetic or sedative.
Articles and reports, including media coverage
Death Penalty in Flux (states where executions are on hold)
Picture of DreamPharma, international source for drugs used in some U.S. executions
"Lethal injection scramble" map from ACLU of Northern California shows which states have obtained sodium thiopental from foreign sources, and includes information on price and quantity of drugs and DEA seizures
- STATEMENT FROM THE MISSOURI SOCIETY OF ANESTHESIOLOGISTS on the use of propofol in executions (September 26, 2013).
- STATEMENT FROM HIKMA, maker of phenobarbital, announcing measures to keep their drug from being used in executions. (May 15, 2013).
- STATEMENT FROM FRESENIUS KABI, maker of propofol, announcing measures to keep their drug from being used in executions. Read the full article from the Associated Press (September 28, 2012).
- STATEMENT FROM 25 PROMINENT EUROPEAN DOCTORS in an open letter to Hospira's President Michael Ball, asking him to restrict distribution of pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant that is used as the 2nd drug in many lethal injections. (Jan. 7, 2012).
- TRANSFER OF PENTOBARBITAL MANUFACTURE FROM DENMARK TO U.S.: Akorn, Inc., a pharmaceutical company based in Lake Forest, Illinois, has acquired manufacturing rights for pentobarbital from Lundbeck, Inc. According to the Associated Press, the "distribution system meant to keep the drug out of the hands of prisons will remain in place." (A. Welsh-Huggins, "Lundbeck Sells Pentobarbital Rights," Associated Press, December 21, 2011)
- STATEMENT FROM LUNDBECK, INC., maker of pentobarbital, on distribution restrictions to prevent use in executions (July 1, 2011)
- Open letter from over 60 doctors to the CEO of Lundbeck Pharmaceuticals, calling for actions to prevent the use of pentobarbital in executions (The Lancet, June 9, 2011)
- STATEMENT FROM LUNDBECK, INC., maker of pentobarbital, on the use of their drugs for executions. (Jan. 26, 2011)
- STATEMENT FROM HOSPIRA, sole U.S. manufacturer of thiopental sodium, on their ending of their production of this drug. (Jan. 21, 2011)
- STATEMENT FROM HOSPIRA, sole U.S. manufacturer of thiopental sodium, on the use of their drugs for executions. (Mar. 31, 2010)
- Other Statements from medical organizations
- North Carolina's new execution protocol (October 24, 2013)
- Ohio's updated execution protocol (October 10, 2013) Previous versions: 2009, 2008
- Florida's new execution protocol (September 9, 2013)
- Louisiana's new execution protocol (June 17, 2013)
- Montana's new execution protocol (January 16, 2013)
- Kentucky's new executions protocol, issued in three parts: pre-execution procedures, protocol for medical and psychological evaluations prior to an execution, and change to one-drug protocol, allowing for use of either sodium thiopental or pentobarbital (July 20, 2012, public hearing to be held September 25, 2012)
- Missouri's new execution protocol (1-drug, propofol) (May 15, 2012)
- Delaware's new execution protocol (Aug. 31, 2007)
- Georgia's new execution protocol (June 7, 2007) - provides for physician assistance with execution
- California's proposed Lethal Injection Protocol (May 15, 2007).
- Florida's new Lethal Injection Protocol (May 9, 2007)
- Tennessee's new Lethal Injection Protocol (April 30, 2007)
- South Dakota's new execution protocol (Aug. 8, 2006; rev, July 1, 2007)
- U.S. Military's new execution protocol (Jan. 2007)
- Executions Stall as States Seek Different Drugs, Manny Fernandez, New York Times (November 8, 2013)
- Europe Pushes to Keep Lethal Injection Drugs From U.S. Prisons, Makiko Kitamura and Adi Narayan, Bloomberg Businessweek (February 7, 2013)
- Lethal injection drug access could put executions on hold, Kimberley Leonard, iWatch News (April 4, 2012)
- Cost of executions skyrocketing in Texas, other states, Mike Ward, Austin American-Statesman (February 23, 2012)
- Ohio faces snags in execution system, Andrew Welsh-Huggins (AP), covering Ohio's newly-suggested backup execution protocol, which would use two drugs previously untested in lethal injections (August 31, 2011)
- Inside the evolving market for lethal injection drugs, Rina Palta, KALW News (November 10, 2010)
- Death-row drug dilemma, Emma Marris, Nature (January 27, 2011)
- Execution by Lethal Injection: A Quarter Century of State Killing, Amnesty International (October 2007)
- But Can it Be Fixed? A Look at Constitutional Challenges to Lethal Injection Executions, Ellen Kreizberg and David Richter, Santa Clara University School of Law, Legal Studies Research Papers Series, Working Paper No. 07-28 (June 2007); 47 Santa Clara L. Rev. 445 (2007).
- The Lethal Injection Quandary: How Medicine Has Dismantled the Death Penalty, Deborah Denno, Fordham Legal Studies Research Paper No. 983732 (May 1, 2007); 76 Fordham L. Rev. 49 (2007).
- The Chaos Behind California Executions, Henry Weinstein and Maura Dolan, L.A. Times, Oct. 2, 2006 (hearings in California on lethal injections).
- Lethal Incompetence, Ty Alper (Boalt School of Law), The Champion, Sept.-Oct. 2006.
- Finding Bickel Gold in a Hill of Beans, Douglas Berman, Cato Supreme Court Review, 2006 (on the legal ramifications of Hill v. Crosby).
- When Legislatures Delegate Death: The Troubling Paradox Behind State Uses of Electrocution and Lethal Injection and What It Says About Us, Deborah Denno, 63 Ohio State Law Journal 63 (2002)
- Human Rights Watch Report on Lethal Injection
- See also Executions News & Developments
- Ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, finding that the FDA failed to fulfill its duties when it allowed, without inspection, the importation of sodium thiopental for use in executions (Cook v. FDA, July 23, 2013, affirming in part Beaty v. FDA (below)). Read DPIC posting.
- Press Release from Montana ACLU, on submission of brief challenging Montana's two-drug protocol as unconstitutional (2013).
- Beaty v. FDA, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, March 27, 2012. Read DPIC posting on the case.
- Georgia Department of Corrections Violates Federal Law in Desperate Effort to Get Drugs for Executions, (Press Release on behalf of John Bentivoglio, February 24, 2011)
- Letter to Attorney General Eric Holder from attorneys for Georgia death row inmate alleging illegal importation of sodium thiopental. (Feb. 24, 2011)
- Response from attorneys who filed suit against the FDA to the letter from the state AGs to Eric Holder (Feb. 16, 2011).
- Lawsuit Filed Against FDA on Lethal Injection on behalf of death row inmates stating that the FDA's failure to monitor importation of lethal injection drugs is illegal (Press Release, February 2, 2011)
- Letter to Attorney General Eric Holder from 13 state attorneys general requesting help in securing lethal injection drugs (January 25, 2011) Response from Attorney General Eric Holder (March 4, 2011)
- STATEMENT FROM THE U.S. FOOD & DRUG ADMINISTRATION concerning the importation of lethal injection drugs (Jan. 4, 2011)
- U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger's ruling holding Tennessee's lethal injectioon protocol unconstitutional (Sept. 19, 2007)
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruling in Taylor v. Crawford, upholding Missouri's lethal injection process. (June 4, 2007)
- U.S. District Judge Fogel's Request for Additional Briefing on certain questions following Sept. 2006 hearings (California challenge)
- U.S. District Judge Fogel's Original Order in Morales
- U.S. District Judge Fogel's Second Order in Morales
- Decision of Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court ordering a hold on executions to allow clarification of lethal injection procedures
- Petition for Certiorari, granted by the U.S. Supreme Court, in Hill v. Crosby
- Petition for certiorari filed in Abdur'Rahman v. Bredesen, a Tennessee capital case in which the issue of lethal injection has also been raised (cert. denied, May 22, 2006).
- U.S. District Court order in North Carolina regarding lethal injection of Willie Brown on April 21, 2006.
Other Legal Resources
- Baze v. Rees - Excerpts from the Supreme Court Opinion in Baze v. Rees
- Boalt Law School Web site - an extensive collection of court opinions and legal briefs filed related to recent lethal injection challenges around the country.
- Resources related to challenges to lethal injection in Arizona.