State by State Lethal Injection
Until 2009, most states used a three-drug combination for lethal injections: an anesthetic (usually sodium thiopental, until pentobarbital was introduced at the end of 2010), pancuronium bromide (a paralytic agent, also called Pavulon), and potassium chloride (stops the heart and causes death). Due to drug shortages, states have adopted new lethal-injection methods, including:
ONE DRUG: Eight states have used a single-drug method for executions--a lethal dose of an anesthetic (Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and Washington). Six other states have at one point or another announced plans to use a one-drug protocol, but have not carried out such an execution (Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee).
PENTOBARBITAL: Fourteen states have used pentobarbital in executions: Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia. Five additional states plan to use pentobarbital: Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Colorado includes pentobarbital as a backup drug in its lethal-injection procedure.
MIDAZOLAM: Four states have used midazolam as the first drug in the three-drug protocol: Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Virginia. Oklahoma used midazolam in the botched execution fo Clayton Lockett in April 2014, and Lockett died after the procedure was halted. Alabama's use of midazolam in the execution of Ronald Smith in December 2016, resulted in nearly fifteen minutes of Smith heaving and gasping for breath. Arkansas intends to use midazolam in the three-drug protocol in carrying out executions in April 2017. In January 2017, Florida abandoned its use of midazolam as the first drug in its three-drug protocol and replaced it with etomidate. Two states have used midazolam in a two-drug protocol consisting of midazolam and hydromorphone: Ohio (Dennis McGuire) and Arizona (Joseph Wood). Both of those executions, which were carried out in 2014, were prolonged and accompanied by the prisoners' gasping for breath. After its botched execution of McGuire, Ohio abandoned its use of midazolam in a two-drug protocol, but then in October 2016 decided to keep midazolam in a three-drug protocol. In December 2016, Arizona abandoned its use of midazolam in either a two-drug or a three-drug protocol. Three states have, at some point, proposed using midazolam in a two-drug protocol (Louisiana, Kentucky, and Oklahoma) but none of those states has followed through with that formula. Some states have proposed multiple protocols. Missouri administered midazolam to inmates as a sedative before the official execution protocol began.
COMPOUNDING PHARMACIES: At least ten states have either used or intend to use compounding pharmacies to obtain their drugs for lethal injection. South Dakota carried out 2 executions in October 2012, obtaining drugs from compounders. Missouri first used pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy in the November 20, 2013 execution of Joseph Franklin. Texas first used pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy in the execution of Michael Yowell on October 9, 2013. Georgia used drugs from an unnamed compounding pharmacy for an execution on June 17, 2014. Oklahoma has used drugs from compounding pharmacies in executions, including in the botched execution of Lockett. Virginia first used compounded pentobarbital obtained through the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in the execution of Alfredo Prieto on October 1, 2015. Ohio announced plans to obtain drugs from compounding pharmacies in October, 2013. In March 2014, Mississippi announced plans to use pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy. Documents released in January 2014, show that Louisiana had contacted a compounding pharmacy regarding execution drugs, but it is unclear whether the drugs were obtained there. Pennsylvania may have obtained drugs from a compounder, but has not used them. Colorado sent out inquiries to compounding pharmacies for lethal injection drugs, but all executions are on hold.
ALTERNATE METHODS: Three states have passed laws allowing for alternative execution methods if lethal-injection drugs are unavailable. Oklahoma's law, effective as of November 2015, allows for the use of nitrogen gas asphyxiation. Tennessee's law allows for the use of the electric chair. Utah's law allows the firing squad to be used if the state cannot obtain lethal-injection drugs 30 days before an execution. New Hampshire allows for hanging "if for any reason the commissioner [of corrections] finds it to be impractical to carry out the punishment of death by administration of the required lethal substance or substances."
In federal executions, the method is lethal injection, which was the method used in all three of the federal executions in the modern era have been by lethal injection carried out in a federal facility in Indiana. Apparently, a three-drug combination was used, though prison officials did not reveal the exact ingredients. (See Washington Post, Dec. 5, 2000). The U.S. Military has not carried out any executions since reinstatement. It plans to use lethal injection.
LETHAL INJECTION "FIRSTS"
First state to use lethal injection: Texas, December 7, 1982
First state to use one-drug method: Ohio, December 8, 2009 (single drug was sodium thiopental)
First state to use pentobarbital in three-drug protocol: Oklahoma, December 16, 2010
First state to use pentobarbital in one-drug protocol: Ohio, March 10, 2011
First state to use midazolam in three-drug protocol: Florida, October 15, 2013
First state to use midazolam in two-drug protocol: Ohio, January 16, 2014
For drugs used in individual executions, see Executions in 2009, Executions in 2010, Executions in 2011, Executions in 2012, Executions in 2013, Executions in 2014, Executions in 2015, and Executions in 2016.
|State-by-State Lethal Injection Information|
|State||Most recently used drug protocol||Latest Information|
|Alabama||3-drug with midazolam||
Sodium thiopental seized by DEA in March 2011 (ACLU of Northern CA, 5/17/11)
Carried out first execution using midazolam (in three-drug protocol) in December 2016, and prisoner gasped for breath for nearly 15 minutes.
|Arizona^||2-drug with midazolam and hydromorphone||
Began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on May 25, 2011 (AP, 5/25/11)
In December 2016, Arizona removed midazolam from its protocol.
Executions on hold per court order until further notice.
|Arkansas^||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||
Turned over sodium thiopental to DEA in July 2011 (AP, 7/21/11)
In June 2015, Akansas announced that it planned to use midazolam in a three-drug protocol.
State says that it has obtained drugs necessary to carry out the eight executions scheduled in April 2017, but the State refuses to disclose the source of the drug citing the state secrecy statute.
|California^||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||
Obtained sodium thiopental from British company, enough for 86 executions (AP, 1/21/11)
|Colorado||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||Executions on hold due to lethal injection challenge in courts and action by the governor staying executions over concerns about the death penalty generally
Pentobarbital is included as a backup for sodium thiopental in Colorado's lethal injection protocol (Associated Press, 8/23/13)
|Delaware||3-drug with pentobarbital||Began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on July 29, 2011 (delawareonline.com, 7/29/11)|
|Florida||3-drug with midazolam||
Began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on September 28, 2011 (Washington Post, 9/29/11)
Changed its protocol on January 4, 2017, replacing midazolam as first drug in three-drug protocol with the drug etomidate, which has never been used in lethal injections.
Used foreign-bought sodium thiopental in 2 executions before sodium thiopental was seized by DEA in March 2011 (ACLU of Northern CA, 5/17/11)
Rescheduled the execution of Kelly Gissendaner (set for March 2, 2015) because the compounded executions drugs were cloudy.
|Idaho||1-drug pentobarbital||Began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on November 18, 2011
First used one-drug method (pentobarbital) on June 12, 2012
|Indiana||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||Uses three-drug protocol
Announced plans to use Brevital, a barbiturate anesthetic, as the first drug in a three-drug protocol (AP, 5/18/14)
|Kansas||None||Statute does not specify drugs; no executions in modern era|
|Kentucky||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||
Sodium thiopental was seized by DEA in April 2011 (ACLU of Northern CA, 5/17/11); a state judge has ordered the prison system to consider using a 1-drug protocol.
In November 2014, the state abandoned use of midazolam and hydromorphone, and no protocol currently exists.
|Louisiana||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||
Announced change to one-drug procedure using pentobarbital (Baton Rouge Advocate, 2/6/13)
Executions on hold per court order until at least January 2018.
|Mississippi||3-drug with pentobarbital||
Began using pentobarbital in 3-drug protocol on May 10, 2011 (AFP, 5/10/11)
Added midazolam as alternative drug if sodium thiopental or pentobarbital are unavailable. (7/28/15.)
Mississippi Supreme Court issued opinion that allows prisoner to challenge the state's method of execution in state court. (12/15/16.)
|Missouri||1-drug pentobarbital||Announced plans to switch to one-drug protocol using 2 grams of propofol (Missouri Department of Corrections, 5/15/12)
Announced plans to switch to pentobarbital, which will be obtained from a compounding pharmacy (AP, 10/22/13)
Began using pentobarbital in one-drug protocol on November 20, 2013
|Montana||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||
Modified protocol to allow for use of pentobarbital (KXLH.com, 8/15/11)
|Nebraska^||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||Obtained sodium thiopental from Indian company, enough for 166 executions (Lincoln Journal Star, 1/21/11 and 1/27/11)
Carey Moore execution stayed to allow time for legal challenge of imported sodium thiopental (Lincoln Journal Star, 5/25/11)
Obtained new supply (485 grams, or enough for about 100 executions) of sodium thiopental from Swiss company (AP, 11/3/11)
Naari AG, the Swiss company that produced Nebraska's supply, asked Nebraska to return it. Naari gave the drug to an Indian man "who said he wanted to use it and eventually sell it as an anesthetic in Zambia," and did not intend it to be used in executions. (CBS News, 11/30/11). The FDA has ordered Neb. to turn over any foreign sodium thiopental. Neb. has refused. FDA is appealing federal court ruling requiring it to recall foreign thiopental. (2012).
Nebraska's legislature abolished the death penalty on May 27, 2015, but electorate voted to repeal the abolition bill in November 2016, and the death penalty has been reinstated.
|Nevada||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||No current protocol available|
|New Hampshire||None||Statute does not specify drugs; no executions in modern era|
|New Mexico||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||Abolished death penalty in 2009, two prisoners remain on death row and may face execution by lethal injection|
|North Carolina||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||
Executions on hold due to lethal injection challenge in courts.
Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry approved a one-drug protocol for lethal injections (WRAL, 11/5/13)
|Ohio||2-drug with midazolam and hydromorphone*||
Began using pentobarbital in one-drug protocol on March 10, 2011 (Washington Post, 3/11/11)
Changed protocol in October 2016, to three-drug using midazolam.
Article reports that State obtained hundreds of vials of midazolam in September and October 2016, but it is unknown when the drugs expire. (AP, 1/9/17)
On January 26, 2017, a federal magistrate judge finds that the state's current lethal injection protocol is unconstitutional.
|Oklahoma||3-drug (midazolam, vecuronium bromide, potassium acetate)*||
Began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on December 16, 2010 (CBS News, 12/17/10)
Executions on hold per court order until further notice.
|Oregon||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||Reselling execution drugs through reverse wholesaler after Gary Haugen execution was cancelled (The Oregonian, 1/3/12)
Executions on hold due to governor-imposed moratorium
|Pennsylvania||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||Statute does not specify drugs
Executions on hold due to governor-imposed moratorium
|South Carolina^||3-drug with pentobarbital||Sodium thiopental was seized by DEA in April 2011 (ACLU of Northern CA, 5/17/11)
Began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on May 6, 2011 (Reuters, 5/6/11)
|South Dakota^||1-drug pentobarbital||Department of Corrections officially altered lethal injection procedures to allow for a one-, two- or three-drug execution process. Changes to procedure will allow either sodium thiopental or pentobarbital to be used in one-drug protocol, or as initial drug in other protocols. State has obtained a supply of pentobarbital. (Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 10/22/11)
Began using pentobarbital in one-drug protocol on October 15, 2012 (Associated Press, 10/16/12)
|Tennessee^||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||Sodium thiopental was seized by DEA in March 2011 (ACLU of Northern CA, 5/17/11)
Has no supply of sodium thiopental or pancuronium bromide (AP, 1/14/13)
Announced plans to switch to a one-drug protocol using pentobarbital (AP, 9/28/13)
Governor signed a bill to allow executions by electric chair if lethal injection drugs are not available (AP, 5/23/14)
|Texas||1-drug pentobarbital||Began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on May 3, 2011 (Wall Street Journal, 5/4/11)
As of May 21, 2012, Department of Criminal Justice has enough lethal injection drugs for 23 executions (Associated Press, May 21, 2012)
Began using pentobarbital in one-drug protocol on July 18, 2012 (BBC News, July 18, 2012)
Enough pentobarbital for 23 executions (AP, 9/19/12); drugs expire in September 2013 and state is seeking alternatives.
Announced it will continue to use pentobarbital but did not indicate the source for the drug (AP, Sept. 20, 2013). Source revealed to be a compounding pharmacy (AP, 10/2/13)
Began using pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy on October 9, 2013 (AP, 10/9/13)
|Utah||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||Uses three-drug protocol
Authorized use of firing squad if lethal injection drugs cannot be obtained (New York Times, 3/23/15)
|Virginia||3-drug with pentobarbital||
Began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on August 18, 2011 (Washington Post, 8/18/11)
Virginia carried out its first execution using midazolam as part of three-drug protocol on January 17, 2017 (Ricky Gray). The drugs were all compounded, but the state would not provide further information on the source because of a state secrecy law.
|Washington||1-drug with sodium thiopental*||Choice of 1- or 3-drug protocol; used 1-drug (sodium thiopental) in execution of Cal Brown on 9/10/10|
|Wyoming||3-drug with sodium thiopental*||Uses three-drug protocol|
^ marks states that received letters in April 2012 from the FDA requesting that they turn over their foreign-sourced lethal injection drugs, in accordance with the U.S. District Court ruling in Beaty v. FDA (Lincoln Journal Star, 4/18/12)
* marks states where the most recently used drug protocol will likely not be used in future executions