Halt in production of lethal drug to be issue in Md. death penalty deliberations
A new wrinkle has emerged in Maryland's deliberations over resuming the use of the death penalty: Word that the U.S. company that makes a drug used in lethal injections is halting its production.
A legislative review panel has scheduled a Feb. 16 hearing on regulations developed by the O'Malley administration that would allow executions to resume. There has been an effective moratorium on capital punishment in Maryland since December 2006, when the state's highest court ruled that new regulations were needed.
The regulations proposed by O'Malley's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services include multiple references to the drug in question, sodium thiopental, which is also known as sodium pentothal.
Shortages of the drug made by Hospira of Lake Forest, Ill., have been an issue in some states that use it. And any supply still on hand in Maryland -- which last executed a prisoner in 2005 -- has since expired, according to a corrections department spokesperson.
"I think this throws the whole thing into reverse," said Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's), a co-chairman of the legislative review panel.
Some lawmakers have accused Pinsky and other death penalty opponents of deliberately delaying the resumption of executions.
For the first three years of his first term, Gov. Martin O'Malley, who also opposes capital punishment, unsuccessfully lobbied the legislature to abolish the death penalty rather than resume its use. More recently, O'Malley has encouraged the review panel to act on the proposed regulations.
Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the corrections department, said it is too soon to know how Hospira's decision will effect Maryland's regulations. But Binetti said he expects it to be among the issued discussion Feb. 16.
If the department decides to develop new procedures, using a different drug, it would have to issue new regulations that would further delay the process.
"The agency has some tough thinking to do, and I think the governor is going to have to give them some direction," Pinsky said.
| January 24, 2011; 4:00 PM ET
Categories: General Assembly, Governor, John Wagner
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