Public Safety & Justice

Missouri Joins Other States, Resumes Executions with New Drug

October 23, 2013

The Missouri Department of Corrections said Tuesday it is switching to a new lethal injection drug, less than two weeks after the governor halted executions until it could find a replacement for the anesthetic propofol.

The Corrections Department said in a news release that it will use the sedative pentobarbital. Death Penalty Information Center director Richard Dieter said 13 states use the drug for executions. He said every execution but one over the past two years in the U.S. used pentobarbital.

The execution of Joseph Franklin on Nov. 20 is still on, the news release stated. Franklin was convicted of killing Gerald Gordon in 1977 as a crowd dispersed from a bar mitzvah in suburban St. Louis. Two others were wounded. When he confessed 17 years later, Franklin was serving several life sentences in a federal prison for killing two black joggers in Salt Lake City and an interracial couple in Madison, Wis., and bombing a synagogue in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Oct. 11 halted the execution of Allen Nicklasson, scheduled for Oct. 23, in part because the European Union was weighing export limits on propofol if it was used in an execution. Propofol is a widely used anesthetic and is mostly made in Europe. Nixon, a Democrat, ordered a halt to all executions until the issue was resolved.

It wasn't immediately clear how much pentobarbital Missouri has. Messages seeking comment from Corrections Department spokesman David Owen were not immediately returned. Franklin's attorneys did not respond to interview requests.

States have been scrambling to find execution drug alternatives in recent years because manufacturers don't want their products used in executions. Missouri last carried out an execution in 2011. It had previously used a three-drug method but switched to propofol in April 2012. It was the only state to make that switch, but no executions were ever carried out with propofol, a drug that made headlines in 2009 when pop star Michael Jackson died of an overdose.

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