A twice-convicted killer who wants to die rather than spend his life in prison was about an hour from eating his final meal on Wednesday when he found out a Nevada judge had indefinitely delayed his execution after a pharmaceutical company objected to the use of one of its drugs to put someone to death.
Alvogen Inc, which said the Nevada Corrections Department had obtained the sedative midazolam illegitimately, won a court order barring it from being administered to Scott Dozier in the state's newly devised and untested three-drug execution protocol.
But a last-minute lawsuit filed by a drug company that doesn't want its product used in "botched" executions could derail Scott Raymond Dozier's scheduled Wednesday execution.
Dozier, who has abandoned the appeals process and repeatedly states his desire to be executed, was convicted of the 2002 murder of Jeremiah Miller, whose torso was found in a suitcase in Las Vegas.
A legal challenge by a drug manufacturer has forced the US western state of Nevada to postpone an execution by lethal injection.
The delay leaves Nevada reassessing its options and stokes a debate about how the 31 states that have capital punishment can put anyone to death in an era when pharmaceutical companies ban their products for that use.
The state is expected to appeal the judge's order to the state Supreme Court, and the judge in Las Vegas has scheduled a September 10 hearing involving drug company attorneys. He said drugs ordered by the state prison system are regularly shipped to Las Vegas.
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With this execution up in the air, it's not clear what Nevada plans to do now.
Todd Bice, an attorney for Alvogen, said the company had sent a letter to state officials in April telling them it opposes the use of midazolam in executions. "Past attempts by other states to use the medicine in lethal injections have been extremely controversial, and have led to widespread concern that prisoners have been exposed to cruel and unusual treatment".
"Alvogen has undertaken controls to avoid diversion of this product for use in execution protocols", the company states on its website concerning midazolam.
Following his arrest on June 25, 2002, Dozier was connected to another crime, the murder of Jasen "Griffin" Green, whose remains had been found in a plastic container in the desert north of Phoenix a year earlier.
Pfizer protested a year ago, but Nevada refused its demand to return the diazepam and fentanyl it manufactured. Under Nevada's new execution protocol, the inmate is next given fentanyl and then cisatracurium, one to slow his breathing, the other to stop it.
According to a statement, the execution "will not take place until further notice".
Alvogen learned from disclosures made in response to litigation by the Nevada Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union that the department of corrections acquired the drug from Cardinal Health, a distributor, through purchase orders from May 2018 that were to be completed in June 2018, according to the lawsuit.
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"Life in prison isn't a life", Dozier told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in an interview published on Sunday.
The synthetic opioid fentanyl is a drug at the center of the USA opioid crisis.
There's a limit to how much artwork and exercise a person can do in prison, Dozier said in court hearings and letters to Clark County District Judge Jennifer Togliatti, who postponed his execution previous year. The state refused, however. But the legal challenge filed by Alvogen is only the second of its kind in the USA, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.
They argued that the untried three-drug combination would be less humane than putting down a pet.
The lawsuit names the director of Nevada's department of corrections, James Dzurenda, and the state's chief medical officer, Dr Ihsan Azzam, as conspiring to buy the midazolam along with an unidentified doctor who will participate in the execution.
Death-penalty watchers have pointed to inconsistent results with midazolam since the 2014 executions of Dennis McGuire in OH and Josph Rudolph Wood III in Arizona.
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