Midazolam: an Unsuitable Drug

While DNA testing and fingerprint comparison continue in Willie Manning’s case, other claims relevant to him are before the Mississippi Supreme Court. Two other death row inmates, Richard Jordan and Gerald Loden, continue to challenge attempts by the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) to use an unsuitable drug in its execution procedure.

Mississippi’s execution legislation requires three drugs, the first of which should be a sedative. Although an amendment to the lethal injection protocol was signed by Governor Bryant earlier this year, it retained a requirement for the sedative to be an “ultra short-acting barbiturate or other similar drug”.*

The sedative available to MDOC when Jordan and Loden’s challenge began last year was compounded pentobarbital.  The inmates’ original complaint highlighted the unsuitability of this drug. However, hours before a hearing in a federal court last July, and without legislative approval, MDOC filed into the federal record a new execution protocol which allowed a completely different drug, midazolam, to be used as a sedative.**

Earlier this month Jordan and Loden filed a petition in the Mississippi Supreme Court opposing the use of midazolam. They point out that far from being an “ultra short-acting barbiturate”, midazolam is not a barbiturate at all, but a benzodiazepine. Moreover, according to Dr Craig Stevens, an experienced Professor of Pharmacology,*** midazolam should not be considered an “other similar drug” :

“…Pharmacological substitution is a legitimate method to provide equal pharmacological effects when one drug is no longer be [sic] available. However, it is not permissible to pharmacologically substitute one drug, such as the barbiturate thiopental, with another drug, such as the benzodiazepine midazolam, where no such pharmacological equivalency exists.”

Stevens also believes that “the use of midazolam in the Mississippi three-drug protocol creates a substantial risk of serious harm and severe pain to the condemned prisoner”.

The Mississippi Supreme Court should acknowledge the large body of scientific findings that contributes to Stevens’s conclusion. The use of midazolam in lethal injections should be ruled illegal.

*See Successive Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, filed in the Supreme Court of Mississippi July 6 2016 (P. 14 of whole document).
** See Successive Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, filed in the Supreme Court of Mississippi July 6 (P.12 of whole document). 2016  
*** Dr Craig Stevens (see Successive Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, filed in the Supreme Court of Mississippi, July 6 2016, pp 176 – 220 of whole document).

 

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