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Missouri says it has a drug supplier for its upcoming execution

Updated: 2014-02-20T04:11:44Z

By TONY RIZZO

The Kansas City Star

Missouri officials said late Wednesday afternoon that they have arranged with an unidentified pharmacy to provide the lethal injection chemical for use in next week’s execution of a Kansas City man.

The state revealed the existence of the supplier of pentobarbital — the drug used in the state’s last three executions — in a federal court filing opposing a stay of execution for Michael Taylor.

Taylor is scheduled to be put to death next Wednesday for the 1989 killing of 15-year-old Ann Harrison.

Wednesday’s court filing does not specify when the state made arrangements with the pharmacy.

An Oklahoma compounding pharmacy that was believed to have supplied the drugs for those three previous executions agreed earlier this week not to supply drugs to the state for Taylor’s lethal injection.

That agreement was reached after attorneys for Taylor filed a lawsuit in federal court in Oklahoma to prevent that pharmacy from supplying the drugs.

While it agreed to not supply the drug for Taylor’s execution, the Oklahoma pharmacy did not confirm that it had been been the state’s previous supplier. Nor has the Missouri Department of Corrections confirmed that the Oklahoma pharmacy was the previous source of the drug.

After reaching agreement with the Oklahoma pharmacy, Taylor’s attorneys on Tuesday asked a federal judge to stay his execution because they contended that the state had no lawful way to carry out the execution next week.

They noted in the motion that Missouri prison officials have said they obtained alternative drugs as a “backup” if they could not obtain pentobarbital. His lawyers said that if Missouri intended to use those drugs, Taylor must be afforded the opportunity to challenge the legality of the new lethal injection process, which they contend would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

That two-drug combination — midazolam and hydromorphone — has been used in only one American execution. In that Ohio case last month, the defendant took more than 20 minutes to die, and witnesses said he gasped for breath and appeared to struggle for an extended period.

The defense also argued that even if the state found a new pentobarbital supplier, denying Taylor an opportunity to research that new source would be a violation of his right to due process.

In its written response Wednesday, the state said that the three previous executions using pentobarbital, according to witnesses, “resulted in rapid and painless” deaths, and by suing to prevent its use in his case, Taylor “tried to force Missouri to use a combination of chemicals he argues is less safe, so that he may complain about it later.”

“But Taylor has failed,” the state argued. “Missouri has now arranged with a pharmacy, that is not the pharmacy Taylor threatened and sued, to supply pentobarbital for Taylor’s execution. There is no reason to believe that the execution will not, like previous Missouri executions using pentobarbital, be rapid and painless.”

Taylor, now 47, and co-defendant Roderick Nunley, 48, both pleaded guilty in 1991 to kidnapping Ann from in front of her southeast Kansas City home while she waited for the school bus. She was raped and stabbed to death.

Taylor in 2006, and Nunley in 2010, came within hours of being executed before they were granted stays to challenge the lethal injection protocol that the state previously used.

Last year, Missouri changed its lethal injection drug to pentobarbital, after the manufacturers of other drugs refused to sell them for use in executions.

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

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