Arizona has run out of drugs used in executions, including the controversial sedative, midazolam, and proposed on Friday eliminating the drug from lethal injections.
Arizona's Corrections Department's supply of midazolam expired on May 31, and their sources of drug have dried up, the state's attorneys said, according to the AP. “The Department's source of midazolam has vanished under pressure from death penalty opponents,” the state’s attorneys said in a court filing.
Midazolam has been blamed in the botched execution of Joseph Wood in July 2014. He was administered 15 doses of midazolam and a narcotic, hydromorphone, and it took Wood nearly two hours to die. He was choking and gasping on the gurney prior to his death.
Arizona has not carried out any executions since then. Seven inmates on Arizona’s death row have filed a lawsuit alleging the state’s use of midazolam and two other drugs violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The state Department of Corrections has filed a motion to render the lawsuit moot since their supply of midazolam expired and they cannot get any more. But in the filing on Friday, the Department of Corrections said it has also run out of pentobarbital and sodium thiopental, two other drugs used in lethal-injection cocktails.
In recent years, European drug manufacturers have cut off access to drugs used in executions as public opinion has soured on the practice. Drug company Pfizer announced last month that it banned the sale of execution drugs, including midazolam, cutting off the last resource states had for lethal injections.
In 2015, Arizona and three other states purchased sodium thiopental in India, but the drug's arrival was blocked by the Food and Drug Administration at a Phoenix Airport, according to the Arizona Republic.
The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the use of midazolam in Oklahoma, but U.S. District Judge Neil Wake has ruled that other factors in Arizona has made him question its use there.
Executions in the U.S. have been on the decline since the mid-1990s. In Texas last week, a judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals questioned the constitutionality of capital punishment.