Ky. governor holding off on some executions due to shortage of key drug

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by Claudia Coffey

WHAS11.com

Posted on August 26, 2010 at 6:34 PM

(WHAS11) - Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has set a September 16 execution date for a rapist and murderer but held off on two others because of a shortage of a key drug used in the execution.

Beshear said he signed only one warrant because the state has enough sodium thiopental for just one execution.

Kentucky's stock expires October 1 and a new supply of the drug is not expected until early in 2011.
It's raising a number of ethical questions; the biggest is whether one dose for one execution even safe to use so close to the date it expires.

The person facing execution? Gregory Wilson. Wilson was sentenced to die October 31, 1988, for his part in the 1987 kidnapping and murder of Deborah Pooley a year earlier in Kenton County in Northern Kentucky.

53-year-old Gregory Wilson will face an execution chamber similar to this one on September 16.

 The last person executed in Kentucky was Marco Chapman back in 2008.
Wilson is one of three death row inmates for which death penalty is being sought but the state doesn't have enough chemicals on hand to execute the other two.

"I can't make anything of any of this," says Donald Vish with the KY Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Donald Vish, the Director of Advocacy for the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, says his organization has asked the governor to stay the execution until the entire system can be reviewed especially now given a key chemical is set to expire just two weeks after the Wilson execution. 

"I think it creates a substantial risk of a botched execution or a substantial risk of lingering pain if the efficacy of those drugs has been diminished in any way," says Donald Vish with the KY Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The Department of Corrections has a sufficient amount of a drug called sodium thiopental, that amount expire October 1. The drug is a sedative.

"In this setting they use three different drugs. This drug is used first to make the person unaware of the effects of the other drugs," says George Bosse of the KY Regional Poison Control Center.

George Bosse - the medical director of the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center - says like all drugs this too has an expiration date and it’s likely to remain effective until that date.

It should last until the expiration date and what happens after that is somewhat controversial and there is some concern it could lose its effectiveness and there is concern that it could cause toxicity which is less likely but the bigger concern is it could be less effective," says Bosse.

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