July 15, 2016 – Tampa Bay Times
Florida may be running out of the controversial and difficult-to-procure sedative that the state uses to execute prisoners on death row.
Records of the state’s lethal injection drug supply logs show that Florida has not purchased midazolam in over a year. The logs, which are maintained by the state Department of Corrections, indicate that while Florida may still have 250 vials of the drug — enough for at least 12 executions — it is possible the drug has either already expired or will likely expire by the end of this year.
Citing the “sensitivity” of the information contained in the logs, a spokeswoman for the department declined to answer any questions about the state’s lethal injection drugs, including whether Florida currently has enough to carry out an execution.
Although the records leave many questions unanswered, they suggest that Florida has joined the ranks of states struggling to obtain midazolam, a drug whose use has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court but whose effectiveness and reliability have been called into question. Under pressure from opponents of the death penalty, sources for the drug have become increasingly difficult to find.
Last month, Arizona announced it could no longer perform executions, as its midazolam supply had expired and it could not find a way to buy more of it or other sedatives like pentobarbital and sodium thiopental. And although Arkansas says it has all the drugs it needs to carry out executions, its future is uncertain as its supplier of the current drugs has refused to provide more.
Florida’s three-drug lethal injection procedure calls for midazolam to be administered first to render inmates unconscious before two other drugs — vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride — are injected. Critics of midazolam point to its use in several botched executions in 2015 and argue that it does not fully sedate inmates and so violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The logs, obtained by a public records request, show that Florida began stockpiling midazolam in June of 2013, several months before officials publicly announced plans to make the then-untried sedative part of its lethal injection protocol. The switch was necessary, they said, because the state was running out of pentobarbital and the drug’s maker prohibited its use in future executions. [READ MORE]