New evidence has emerged that suggests that the Alabama Department of Corrections may have violated federal law by acquiring sodium thiopental from the Tennessee Department of Corrections, whose supply has since been seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration due to concerns it was illegally obtained. Alabama’s acquisition of the drug from Tennessee was documented in records recently obtained from Tennessee.
Sodium thiopental is one of the key drugs used in executions in Alabama. The drug has been in short supply nationwide.
On April 22, EJI lawyers representing Jason Williams, who is scheduled to be executed on May 19, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder outlining the new information and urging the Department of Justice and the DEA to immediately investigate the apparent violations of federal law and take the necessary steps to ensure Alabama does not utilize unlawfully obtained drugs.
The new documents, which were reviewed by EJI, reveal that Alabama’s most recent batch of sodium thiopental – and the only batch known to be unexpired – was obtained from the Tennessee Department of Corrections one week before the DEA seized its supply on March 22.
“In its haste to acquire sodium thiopental in the midst of a nationwide shortage, the Alabama Department of Corrections appears to have purchased illegal drugs,” said EJI Director Bryan Stevenson. “If an investigation uncovers that Alabama’s execution drug supply comes from a batch subsequently seized by the DEA, it is imperative that the Department of Justice take action to ensure the State is not in possession of a drug that is illegal and of unknown efficacy.”