This story is amazing, really. Sick and amazing. I’d advise someone to use it as a plot element in a novel, except that the reader would say, “Nah, that’s just not believable.” Here’s the short version:
- Nebraska needs execution drugs, but said drugs are no longer manufactured in the U.S.;
- Nebraska contacts broker in India, who procures drugs from shady source and imports them using questionable means;
- Because neither Nebraska nor the Indian company had the proper permits to import the drugs, a legal battle begins;
- Drug broker procures new shipment from reputable international pharmaceutical company by lying about their intended use;
- Drugs are shipped to broker who then ships drugs to Nebraska to be used to kill people rather than to Zambia where they could help people (as he claimed he would do);
- International pharmaceutical company demands return of drugs from Nebraska.
Like I said, if this was in a novel, you’d never believe it. But it’s real life and it’s a great example of how wedded we are to our death penalty system in the United States. We are so desperate to kill people that state governments are working with international drug dealers who lie to companies in order to procure drugs that the companies wouldn’t ordinarily provide — because the companies don’t want their medicines being used to kill people.
Here’s the story itself:
The chief executive officer of Naari, the Swiss company that produced the sodium thiopental — which is now waiting to be used in Nebraska’s execution chamber — has asked the state to return the drug, saying it was obtained under false pretenses by a third-party broker. CEO Prithi Kochhar made the request in a Nov. 18 letter to Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican.
The letter said the company gave 485 grams of the drug to a broker by the name of Chris Harris, who said he would use the samples to get the drug registered in Zambia. Harris promised that once the drug was approved by the African nation, he would order additional supplies for use as a medical anesthetic.
"I am shocked and appalled by this news," Kochhar wrote. "Naari did not supply these medicines directly to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services and is deeply opposed to the use of the medicines in executions."
The arrangement appeared plausible because sodium thiopental is widely used as an anesthetic in the developing world, Kochhar wrote.
But Harris sold the drug to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, which requires sodium thiopental as the first of three drugs to carry out an execution by lethal injection.
Shame on us.