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Supreme Court lifts Ariz. execution stay

PHOENIX, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday night lifted a stay blocking the execution of an Arizona killer over concerns about where the state got its lethal drugs.

The nation's highest court, on a 5-4 vote, granted Arizona Gov. Jan. Brewer's application to vacate a lower court's temporary restraining order.

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"There is no evidence in the record to suggest that the drug obtained from a foreign source is unsafe," the court said. "The district court granted the restraining order because it was left to speculate as to the risk of harm. But speculation cannot substitute for evidence that the use of the drug is 'sure or very likely to cause serious illness and needless suffering.'

"There was no showing that the drug was unlawfully obtained, nor was there an offer of proof to that effect."

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Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan opposed lifting the temporary restraining order.

The ruling clears the way for Arizona to execute Jeffrey Landrigan, who had been scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday morning.

At issue was whether a drug to be used in Landrigan's execution could constitute cruel-and-unusual punishment, banned by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A nationwide shortage of a barbiturate used in lethal injection executions has raised questions about where the state obtained the drug, The Arizona Republic reported.

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Arizona officials have confirmed the drug did not come from the only source approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a pharmaceutical firm near Chicago. Landrigan's attorneys say they believe it came from overseas and so might not meet the quality-control standards assured by FDA approval.

If the drug were substandard, the attorneys argue, it could cause the condemned pain or suffering.

Brewer had announced Sunday night she would not grant Landrigan a reprieve. The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency had recommended a reprieve based on questions about DNA evidence found on the murder victim, Chester Dyer, in 1989.

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