Georgia postpones second execution over drug concerns

The postponement comes after several states reviewed or changed their lethal injection protocol due to a ban on the sale of lethal injection drugs in the European Union.

By Danielle Haynes

JACKSON, Ga., March 3 (UPI) -- The Georgia Department of Corrections announced Tuesday it has postponed the execution of a second inmate over concerns about the quality of drugs used for lethal injections.

The department put off the execution of the first female scheduled to be executed since World War II on Monday after it was discovered the drug used in the state's lethal injections -- pentobarbital -- appeared to be cloudy. Kelly Renee Gissendaner, 47, was first set to be executed Feb. 25, but that was delayed due to inclement weather.


Now the state says it's also postponing the execution of Brian Keith Terrell in order to conduct an analysis on the drug planned to be used in Monday's execution.

Terrell was scheduled to be executed March 10 for the 1992 slaying of John Watson, 70, at his home in Newton County, Ga.

New execution dates for both death-row inmates have not been announced.

"The sentencing courts will issue new execution orders when the department is prepared to proceed," a news release from the department said.


Pentobarbital isn't the only lethal injection drug currently under the microscope.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review a drug protocol used for executions in several states in the wake of what some critics are calling the botched executions of multiple inmates. Those drug protocols use midazolam, a general anesthetic.

The petition was brought by lawyers representing four Oklahoma death-row inmates, including one, Charles Warner, who was executed in January.

The state has since stayed all executions pending the Supreme Court ruling.

Warner's execution went as planned, but the April execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma had apparent complications and he had a heart attack during the process. After receiving an injection including midazolam, Lockett had convulsions and reportedly tried to speak and lift his head even after doctors declared him unconscious. It took him 43 minutes to die after the injection.

Arizona has also experienced some controversy about its former two-drug cocktail -- midazolam and hydromorphone -- after it took 15 doses of the drugs and two hours for one inmate, Joseph Wood, to die. His lawyer said Wood was gasping for breath for more than hour throughout the process.


The state changed its protocol in December and now uses a three-drug cocktail of midazolam, the paralytic vecuronium bromide and the heart-stopper potassium chloride.

Executions in the United States have undergone some changes in recent years after states started running out of the essential lethal injection drug pentobarbital. The European Union in 2011 voted to prohibit the sale of the drug and seven other barbiturates to the United States for use in torture or executions.

Since then, states have been using new drug cocktails or, as in Ohio, postponing executions until enough of the drugs needed can be acquired.

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