Execution using UK drugs 'may have gone wrong'

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."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat