GEORGIA (USA): DEA SEIZES SUPPLY OF EXECUTION DRUG
March 15, 2011: U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized Georgia's supply of sodium thiopental today because of concerns about how it was imported.
Attorneys for several death row inmates have said that the sedative was improperly obtained. Authorities offered few details about the motive for the seizure except to say there were questions about how the state had obtained the drug.
"DEA became aware of this situation today," Special Agent Chuvalo J. Truesdell said.
"We took control of the controlled substances, and it's now a regulatory matter." He declined further comment because of the ongoing investigation.
The Georgia Department of Corrections said it had requested federal assistance after questions were raised about how the drug was imported. "We're working with them to make sure we're in compliance in the way we handle controlled substances," Corrections spokeswoman Peggy Chapman said.
The federal government stepped in following a letter sent last month to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on behalf of Georgia death row inmate Andrew Grant DeYoung. With sodium thiopental in short supply nationally, Georgia corrections officials ordered the drug from a pharmaceutical distributor in London, England, DeYoung attorney John Bentivoglio wrote in the February 24 letter. The state received 50 vials of sodium thiopental in July, Bentivoglio said, citing public records.
But Bentivoglio said the state was not registered to import the controlled substance and failed to notify DEA about the shipment. Sara Totonchi, executive director of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, said her center first raised questions about the state of Georgia's purchase from England in federal court filings for death row inmate Emmanuel Hammond, who was executed in January.
Georgia has no executions scheduled at this time. (Sources: Reuters, 15/03/2011)