TULSA, Okla. — An Oklahoma pharmacy has agreed not to provide a drug for a scheduled execution next week in Missouri as part of a settlement with the death row inmate's attorneys. But it's unclear whether the deal will prevent or delay the lethal injection.
Attorneys for death row inmate Michael Taylor had filed a lawsuit against The Apothecary Shoppe, a compounding pharmacy in Tulsa that they said was providing a drug that could cause "inhumane pain" during Taylor's Feb. 26 execution.
In court documents filed late Monday, his lawyers notified the judge they were dropping the lawsuit because the company had agreed not to prepare or provide any drug for use in Taylor's lethal injection. The pharmacy also acknowledged it had not already provided any drug to the Missouri Department of Corrections for the execution, said Taylor's attorney, Matt Hellman.
However, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon indicated last week that the state could move forward with the execution even after the judge issued a temporary restraining order that blocked the company from providing the drug. He did not say "yes" or "no" when asked if Missouri had enough drugs for the execution but twice stressed that the Department of Corrections was prepared.
Messages seeking comment about the settlement and Taylor's execution status were not returned by either Missouri's attorney general or its Corrections Department. Messages also were left by The Associated Press with the pharmacy and its attorney.
The office of U.S. District Judge Terence C. Kern said a hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday afternoon was canceled.
The state has refused to say where it obtains its execution drug, arguing that the supplier is part of the execution team and therefore shielded from public disclosure. And the Apothecary Shoppe will not confirm that it supplied a compounded version of pentobarbital to Missouri for use in lethal injections.
But in their lawsuit, Taylor's attorneys allege that Missouri turned to The Apothecary Shoppe to supply compounded pentobarbital because the drug's only licensed manufacturer refused to provide it for lethal injections.
The lawsuit alleged that several recent executions using compounded pentobarbital showed it would likely cause Taylor "severe, unnecessary, lingering and ultimately inhumane pain."
Execution drugs have become increasingly difficult to obtain because major drug makers stopped selling pharmaceuticals for use in the death penalty. Many states, like Missouri, have turned to compounding pharmacies, which manufacture drugs for individual clients.
Taylor's lawsuit also questioned whether the Tulsa pharmacy could legally produce and deliver compounded pentobarbital. It alleged the pharmacy was not registered as a drug manufacturer with the FDA and violates federal law each time it delivers the drug across state lines to Missouri corrections officials.
Taylor is on death row for raping and killing 15-year-old Ann Harrison after abducting her from a Kansas City school bus stop in 1989. Another man also is on death row for the crime.
Taylor was hours away from execution in 2006 when the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay over concerns about whether the state's three-drug method could violate the constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.
Missouri has executed three men in the past three months, the first three executions using pentobarbital. The state had previously used a three-drug procedure.