Chamblee54

Nevada Death Drugs

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on July 12, 2018


Scott Raymond Dozier was convicted of two nasty murders. “In 2005, Dozier was sentenced to 22 years in prison for shooting 26-year-old Jasen Greene, whose body was found in 2002 in a shallow grave outside Phoenix. A witness testified that Dozier used a sledgehammer to break Greene’s limbs so the corpse would fit in a plastic tote that Dozier used to transport meth, equipment and chemicals. Dozier was sentenced to die for robbing, killing and dismembering 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller at a Las Vegas motel in 2002. Miller had come to Nevada to buy ingredients to make meth. His decapitated torso was found in a suitcase in an apartment building trash bin, also missing lower legs and hands. He was identified by tattoos on the shoulders. His head was never found.”

Life in prison did not agree with Mr. Dozier, and he grew weary of the appeals process. “… on October 31 (2016) he sent a handwritten letter to Clark County District Judge Jennifer Togliatti: “I, Scott Raymond Dozier…of sound mind, do hereby request that my death sentence be enacted and I be put to death.” … Last July, Togliatti summoned him to court. By then, it was clear that the state would struggle to find execution drugs and that such problems had been tied to painful, botched executions in other states. “That has not dissuaded you from asking me to sign this warrant?” she asked. “Quite frankly, your honor, all those people ended up dead,” Dozier said, “and that’s my goal here.”

“Just Bang Me Up, Man” was how Mr. Dozier put it in a later interview. A handsome, articulate man, Mr. Dozier is a movie waiting to be made. That interview, and another one here, are full of zesty quotes. “The public is ambivalent and apathetic, and maybe there will be 10 minutes of entertainment on the news. Maybe a few sick people will spend too much time with it on social media.”

There was only one problem. Nevada, like many other states, likes giving death sentences more than carrying them out. “It also creates a dilemma for states that want the harshness of death sentences without the messiness of carrying them out. The legal scholars (and siblings) Jordan Steiker and Carol Steiker have written that states like Nevada are “symbolic,” sentencing many people to death — in 2017, Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, obtained the second-most death sentences of any county in the country — but rarely executing anyone. California, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania together house nearly 1,000 death row prisoners; all told, they have executed just 22 people in the last four decades. … “We don’t kill them in Nevada unless they agree to it,” said Clark County public defender Scott Coffee. “What you’ve got with Dozier is state-assisted suicide.”

“The last execution (in Nevada) had taken place in 2006, years before pharmaceutical companies had tried to stop states from using their drugs to kill prisoners. In September 2016, Nevada corrections department director James Dzurenda sought drugs from 247 different suppliers; none were interested. Dozier’s decision added pressure to the search, and in August of last year, Dzurenda sent a letter to the Association of State Correctional Administrators, asking if other states had extra drugs they might send to Nevada. Dzurenda’s search was evidently unfruitful. Later that month, prison officials announced a solution: They would settle for drugs they could get. That included fentanyl (the opioid known for causing thousands of overdose deaths around the country), diazepam (the anti-anxiety drug better known as Valium), and cisatracurium (a paralytic first discovered on the tips of poisoned arrows in South America).”

“Much is still unknown. Brooke Keast, a department spokeswoman, said in an email the full protocol — which may include the order of the drugs, who will administer them, and who will witness the execution — will be released in the coming weeks, and that the drugs were “suggested” by the state’s Chief Medical Officer John DiMuro.” “Dr. DiMuro said he created the untried execution protocol “based it on procedures common in open-heart surgery.””

“Several medical professionals say there is no obvious explanation for why these drugs were selected. “It doesn’t make much sense; you don’t need Valium if you have fentanyl,” said Susi Vassallo, a NYU professor … Valium “makes you sleepy,” and can kill in large doses, but fentanyl also brings about unconsciousness without pain, and the drug’s deadliness is well-known, having caused thousands of overdose deaths around the country in recent years.”

“The potential problems will come with cisatracurium, which is related to curare, a paralyzing agent first discovered in South America, where indigenous people used it to poison the tips of their hunting arrows. Fentanyl can stop the heart, but it is short acting and will need to be given in a massive ongoing dose, because otherwise the prisoner may wake up. If he does, the cisatracurium will mask his consciousness while also potentially giving him the sensation — unobservable by witnesses — of being unable to breathe. “People who have recovered from it have said that they couldn’t breathe, and they knew they were suffocating,” Vassallo said. “The paralytic is only going to disguise whether the fentanyl is being administered properly.” It is for this reason, she said, that the American College of Veterinarians forbids the use of paralytics when animals are euthanized.”

“The fentanyl and diazepam “may be trying to block the experience of suffocation,” said Joel B. Zivot, an Emory University anesthesiologist … “The fentanyl takes away pain, and the Valium takes away anxiety. Both drugs are limited in their ability to do that, and of course neither is designed to block the pain or anxiety of death. So that’s just a show. This is not actually science, It’s not actually medicine. It is a grotesque impersonation of those things.”

“Mark Heath, a professor of anesthesiology at Columbia University” said “if the fentanyl or the sedative Valium … —“don’t work as planned, or if they are administered incorrectly,” then the prisoner would be awake and conscious during the execution. “It would be an agonizing way to die, but the people witnessing wouldn’t know anything had gone wrong because you wouldn’t be able to move” because of the paralytic drug, he said. …. Joel Zivot said the protocol is the latest in a series of attempts by states to “obtain certain drugs, try them out on prisoners, and see if and how they die.” The states, he said, have “no medical or scientific basis” for selecting the execution drugs. Fordham University law professor Deborah Denno … criticized the states for continuing to adopt experimental drug protocols. The reason for the change in protocols, she said, is “not really for the prisoner. It’s for the people who have to watch it happen. We don’t want to feel squeamish or uncomfortable. We don’t want executions to look like what they really are: killing someone.”

“The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that some pain does not make an execution cruel and unusual punishment. “While most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in Glossip v. Gross. “Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether.”

The pending execution became news when “Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez ruled in favor of the company that makes midazolam, which sued the state, saying Nevada had illegitimately acquired the product for the execution. It wants the state to return its stock of the drug to the company. Gonzalez granted a temporary restraining order….The drug maker, Alvogen, and the state are scheduled to return to court September 10 for another hearing in the case.”

Chamblee54 has written about the death penalty drug problem several times. (one two three four) Pictures today are from The Library of Congress. The photographer was Jack Delano, working in Greene County, Georgia, in May, 1941. The Marshall Project was a valuable source for this report.

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