Until 2009, most states used a 3-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 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.
PROPOFOL: One state had planned to use propofol (Diprivan), in a single-drug protocol, but has since revised its lethal injection procedure: Missouri
MIDAZOLAM: Two states have used midazolam as the first drug in a three-drug protocol: Florida and Oklahoma. Oklahoma's use of midazolam was botched, and the inmate, Clayton Lockett, died after the procedure was halted. Two states have used midazolam in a two-drug protocol: Ohio and Arizona. Both of their executions in 2014 were prolonged, accompanied by the inmate's gasping. Three states have proposed using midazolam in a two-drug protocol: Louisiana, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. Two states have proposed using midazolam in a three-drug protocol: Alabama and Virginia. Some states have proposed multiple protocols. Missouri administered midazolam to inmates as a sedative before the official execution protocol began.
COMPOUNDING PHARMACIES: Nine 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. 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. Oklahoma may use drugs from compounding pharmacies, if it can obtain them.
ALTERNATE METHODS: Three states have recently passed laws allowing for alternative execution methods if lethal injection drugs are unavailable. Oklahoma's law, which becomes effective in November 2015, will allow for the use of nitrogen gas asphyxiation. Tennessee allows for the use of the electric chair. Utah allows the firing squad to be used if the state cannot obtain lethal injection drugs 30 days before an execution.
In federal executions, the method is determined by the state in which the sentencing took place. All 3 of the federal executions in the modern era have been by lethal injection carried out in a federal facility in Indiana. Apparently, a 3-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.
|State-by-State Lethal Injection Information|
|State||Used Pentobarbital in Executions?||Used One-Drug Protocol?||Latest Information|
sodium thiopental seized by DEA in March 2011 (ACLU of Northern CA, 5/17/11)
began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on May 19, 2011 (Reuters, 5/19/11)
announced plans to use midazolam as first drug in a three-drug protocol (Anniston Star, 9/12/14)
began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on May 25, 2011 (AP, 5/25/11)
switched to one-drug protocol (pentobarbital) on February 29, 2012 (AP, 2/29/12)
Execution protocol has been changed to allow witnesses to watch all of the execution. Previously, witnesses could not watch the insertion of IV lines (Associated Press, 6/7/12)
at least enough pentobarbital for two more executions (AP, 9/19/12)
First use of midazolam and hydromorphone in a two-drug protocol on July 23, 2014 was botched. Execution of Joseph Wood took over two hours, witnesses reported Wood gasped and snorted throughout the execution. (Washington Post, 7/23/14)
turned over sodium thiopental to DEA in July 2011 (AP, 7/21/11)
obtained unspecified amount of sodium thiopental from British company (AP, 1/21/11)
executions on hold because lethal injection law violates state constitution (2012)
Legislature passed law rewriting execution protocol, calls for one-drug procedure, but does not specify drug (AP, 2/20/13)
Announced plans to use phenobarbital in executions. No other state has used or plans to use the drug in executions. (AP, 4/16/13) State has now abandoned plans to use phenobarbital. (Arkansas News Bureau, 6/17/13).
obtained sodium thiopental from British company, enough for 86 executions (AP, 1/21/11)
executions on hold due to lethal injection challenge in courts; the governor has recommended that the Dept. of Corrections consider changing to a 1-drug protocol
a Superior Court judge rejected requests to set execution dates, saying he did not have jurisdiction to order the one-drug procedure that has never been used in California (AP, 9/11/12).
State is no longer defending its 3-drug protocol and intends to implement a 1-drug protocol. (Mercury News, 7/11/13)
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)
|Connecticut||No||No||uses three-drug protocol; death penalty abolished, but 11 inmates remain on death row|
|Delaware||Yes||No||began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on July 29, 2011 (delawareonline.com, 7/29/11)|
began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on September 28, 2011 (Washington Post, 9/29/11)
announced plans to use midazolam as the first drug in a new three-drug protocol. Began using midazolam in executions on October 15, 2013
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)
began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on June 23, 2011 (Reuters, 6/23/11)
supply of 17 vials of pentobarbital (enough for about 6 executions) expires March 1, 2013 (AP, 2/18/13)
began using one-drug protocol on February 21, 2013 (The Guardian, 2/21/13)
began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on November 18, 2011
First used one-drug method (pentobarbital) on June 12, 2012
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||No||No||statute does not specify drugs; no executions since in modern era|
|Kentucky||Intends to||Intends to||
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.
New execution method calls for 1- or 2-drug (midazolam and hydromorphone) lethal injection, depending on availability of drugs. Both protocols would employ intravenous application. New protocol takes effect 2/1/13, but must be approved by a judge before executions can resume. (AP, 1/31/13)
|Louisiana||Intends to||Intends to||
announced change to one-drug procedure using pentobarbital (Baton Rouge Advocate, 2/6/13)
Execution scheduled for 2/13/13 has been stayed. Judge requires additional information on new execution procedure. (AP, 2/7/13)
announced change to two-drug execution procedure - midazolam and hydromorphone (Times-Picayune, 1/27/14)
began using pentobarbital in 3-drug protocol on May 10, 2011 (AFP, 5/10/11)
5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear challenge to Mississippi's lethal injection protocol; executions on hold (Associated Press, 8/4/12)
said it will use pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy as the first drug in a 3-drug protocol (AP, 3/20/14)
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
modified protocol to allow for use of pentobarbital (KXLH.com, 8/15/11)
District Court judge ruled Montana's execution procedure unconstitutional (Canadian Press, 9/6/12)
Proposed two-drug protocol is being challenged in court (ACLU of Montana, 7/15/13)
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 ll foreign thiopental. (2012).
Nebraska abolished the death penalty on May 27, 2015.
|Nevada||No||No||executions on hold due to lethal injection challenge in courts|
|New Hampshire||No||No||statute does not specify drugs; no executions in modern era|
|New Mexico||No||No||abolished death penalty in 2009, two inmates remain on death row and may face execution by lethal injection|
|North Carolina||Intends to||Intends to||
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)
began using pentobarbital in one-drug protocol on March 10, 2011 (Washington Post, 3/11/11)
supply of pentobarbital expires September 2013 (AP, 9/19/12)
Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has requested that doctors participate in executions and be protected from professional sanctions for doing so. (AP, 2/15/13)
announced plans to obtain pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy (AP, 10/4/13)
began using a 2-drug protocol (midazolam and hydromorphone) on January 16, 2014, execution botched (New York Times, 1/16/14)
announced plans to use a one-drug protocol of sodium thiopental or pentobarbital (AP, 1/8/15)
began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on December 16, 2010 (CBS News, 12/17/10)
authorized 5 different lethal injection protocols, at the discretion of the Department of Corrections: a three-drug method beginning with sodium thiopental, pentobarbital, or midazolam, a two-drug procedure using midazolam and hydromorphone, or a lethal dose of pentobarbital alone (AP, 3/26/14)
a state judge struck down Oklahoma's lethal injection secrecy law, saying that it violated inmates' right to due process (AP, 3/26/14)
The state's first use of a three-drug protocol beginning with midazolam was botched. (LA Times, 4/29/14)
|Oregon||No||No||reselling execution drugs through reverse wholesaler after Gary Haugen execution was cancelled (The Oregonian, 1/3/12)|
|Pennsylvania||No||No||statute does not specify drugs|
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)
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*||Intends to||Intends to||
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)
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)
uses three-drug protocol
authorized use of firing squad if lethal injection drugs cannot be obtained (New York Times, 3/23/15)
began using pentobarbital in three-drug protocol on August 18, 2011 (Washington Post, 8/18/11)
announced switch from pancuronium bromide to rocuronium bromide for second drug in three-drug protocol (Associated Press, 7/27/12)
authorized midazolam as an alternative first drug in the 3-drug protocol (Washington Post, 2/21/14)
|Washington||No||Yes||choice of 1- or 3-drug protocol; used 1-drug (sodium thiopental) in execution of Cal Brown on 9/10/10|
|Wyoming||No||No||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)