To understand American history, Jon Lauck says you have to understand the Midwest's role in some critical events.
Missouri must now come up with an alternative means of executing a death row inmate next week after an Oklahoma pharmacy says it will not provide the state with the drug to be used as the lethal injection.
Last night, the Apothecary Shoppe — a compounding pharmacy in Tulsa — and lawyers for inmate Michael Taylor reached an agreement after Taylor filed a federal suit against the pharmacy claiming its drug would cause “inhumane pain” during his execution.
Taylor was convicted in the abduction, rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl in 1989. Chris McDaniel of Here & Now contributor St. Louis Public Radio joins Robin Young with details.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW.
Missouri must now come up with an alternative means of executing a death row inmate next week because an Oklahoma pharmacy says it will not provide the state with the drug scheduled for the lethal injection. Last night, the Apothecary Shoppe - a compounding pharmacy in Tulsa - and lawyers for inmate Michael Taylor reached that agreement. Taylor, who was convicted in the abduction, rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl in 1989, filed a federal suit against the pharmacy, claiming its drug would cause inhumane pain during his execution.
Chris McDaniel is with HERE AND NOW contributor St. Louis Public Radio. And, Chris, it seems that key here is that the Apothecary Shoppe had kept its relationship with Missouri a secret from the public. Then it got out that it's sold the drug pentobarbital to the state, which used it in three recent executions. So what was the public reaction when that got out?
CHRIS MCDANIEL, BYLINE: Well, that's right, Robin. Both the state and the Apothecary Shoppe tried very hard to keep the identity a secret. They redacted a lot of public records. They, in fact, signed a confidentiality agreement with the state. And the state was actually paying them all in cash. A high-ranking corrections official was actually driving out to the pharmacy and paying them thousands of dollars in cash.
Once their name got out, there was steady press identifying them as the execution drug supplier. And that was - that's likely not good for business. The other thing is that there were some vigils held outside of the Apothecary Shoppe by anti-death penalty groups. And there's also this lawsuit.
MCDANIEL: So there are a few different reasons why the Apothecary Shoppe would come to this conclusion after supplying for three executions.
YOUNG: Right. Well, there are death penalty foes, of course. But also, these lethal injections are getting terrible press. They have failed to execute quickly. Separately licensed manufacturers are not supplying them in death penalty cases. That's why these states are turning to these, in many cases, unlicensed compounding pharmacies. But in Missouri where you are, Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, indicated last week that Missouri could move forward with next week's scheduled execution of Michael Taylor. How, with the Oklahoma pharmacy supplying the lethal injection drug?
MCDANIEL: Well, the state does have a couple of options. One would be to find another compounding pharmacy that's willing to sell to the state. That might not be an easy task because it's not something that a lot of compounding pharmacies would be willing to do. Compounding pharmacies aren't normally doing this sort of thing. Most of the time, it's for much smaller projects that don't involve this sort of thing.
And their other option, really, is using this back-up drug that the state apparently has, a drug called midazolam. And some of your listeners might be familiar with midazolam. It's what Ohio used in their abnormally long execution recently.
YOUNG: Yeah. It was just horrendous. And we know - I think the family is suing in that case.
YOUNG: But meanwhile, what do you think the ripples will be from what's happening in your state? We know in Georgia, lawyers for the state and death row inmate there are arguing over whether prisoners awaiting execution should have access to information about where states are getting their death penalty drugs. What do you think the ripple effect is going to be?
MCDANIEL: Well, states are turning to compounding pharmacies because virtually no drug manufacturer wants their product to be used for lethal injections. Now as a part of this, the compounding pharmacies that are willing to do it, they are only willing to do it if their name is kept secret. Missouri employed about as much secrecy as you can have. As we mentioned before, there are confidentiality agreements, cash payments even.
YOUNG: And it didn't work. Yeah.
MCDANIEL: And it didn't work. So I think that this could really be a warning sign to a lot of other compounding pharmacies that would consider selling to departments of correction.
YOUNG: Yeah. Chris McDaniel, a reporter with HERE AND NOW contributor St. Louis Public Radio. We'll continue to follow this story there. An execution scheduled for next week, but right now, who knows how that will happen. Chris, thank you so much.
MCDANIEL: Thank you.
YOUNG: You're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.