Execution using UK drugs 'may have gone wrong'
Thursday 27 January 2011
An American prisoner in Georgia was executed with British drugs despite testimony from defence lawyers and a medical expert that one of the chemicals might have been ineffective and beyond its shelf life.
Emmanuel Hammond, 45, was put to death in the United States shortly before midnight on Tuesday, using a combination of three drugs. One of the drugs, sodium thiopental, was purchased from Dream Pharma, a small wholesale company based in Acton, west London. Sodium thiopental is an anaesthetic used to render a prisoner unconscious before a second drug, pancuronium bromide, causes paralysis. Finally, a fatal does of the poison potassium chloride is delivered.
The execution went ahead despite expert testimony questioning the efficacy of the sodium thiopental that was sold to the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) by Dream Pharma, which is run from the offices of Elgone Driving Academy by Mehdi "Matt" Alavi.
In a series of last-minute appeals, lawyers for Mr Hammond presented evidence from Dr Mark Heath, a clinical anaesthesiologist at Columbia University Medical Centre, who said evidence from a previous execution of a Georgia prisoner suggested Dream Pharma's sodium thiopental may not have worked properly.
Brandon Rhode was executed using Dream Pharma's sodium thiopental on 27 September 2010. During the execution, numerous reporters and witnesses noticed that his eyes remained open throughout the procedure, an event Dr Heath described as "highly atypical" as the drug normally ensures an executed inmate's eyes remain closed.
In a sworn affidavit seen by The Independent, Dr Heath said: "If the thiopental was inadequately effective Mr Rhode's death would certainly have been agonising. There is no dispute that the asphyxiation caused by pancuronium and the caustic burning sensation caused by potassium would be agonising in the absence of adequate anaesthesia."
It is not yet known whether Hammond, who spent 23 years on death row for murder, showed similar symptoms during his execution. His lawyers argued that the questions about the drug's effectiveness should have prevented the final sentence being carried out. "The origin and irregularities of these drugs raise serious questions as to whether they are adulterated, expired or counterfeit," Mr Hammond's lawyers wrote in their appeal to the State Supreme Court. "Without the requested relief, Mr Hammond will suffer irreparable harm in that he will be executed in an unconstitutional manner."
Hammond's execution was halted briefly for a few hours, until a county court and the State Supreme Court both ruled that the evidence was too speculative to warrant a stay. Georgia is now the third state known to have acquired sodium thiopental from Dream Pharma. Prison officials have struggled to source it from within the US after the domestic company that manufactured it stopped producing it last year.
When The Independent contacted Mr Alavi yesterday he declined to comment. Reprieve, a British group that campaigns against the death penalty, said the Government should have done more to make sure British drugs were not used in executions.
"It is shocking that Britain has allowed a fly-by-night company in the back of a driving academy to export these drugs," said Clive Stafford-Smith, Reprieve's director. "The British Government must initiate an immediate inquiry into how this can happen."
- 1 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 2 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 4 Satellite full of sexually experimental geckos adrift in space, Russia loses control of mission
MH17 crash: Investigators discover more human remains and 'huge section of plane'
Susan Sarandon on David Bowie romance: 'He's worth idolising'
Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Exclusive: Cameron’s Big Society in tatters as charity watchdog launches investigation into claims of Government funding misuse
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss
Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...
£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...
Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...
£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...