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Arkansas Battling Medical Supply Company to Use Covertly Obtained Execution Drug

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 19, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In a hearing last April, Arkansas Department of Correction Deputy Director Rory Griffin admitted he deliberately avoided a paper trail when he ordered vecuronium bromide -- one of three drugs in the state's lethal injection cocktail -- from McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. That could be because he knew McKesson didn't want the drug used for executions.

While Griffin says he didn't keep the text messages he exchanged with McKesson salesman Tim Jenkins, Jenkins did, and he testified that Griffin never told him the drug would be used for lethal injections. McKesson is suing Arkansas to block the state from using the drug in future executions, and the state is now appealing a judge's ruling to allow the lawsuit to go forward.

I Wanna Old Drug

All of this legal wrangling led to an injunction in April, issued by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray, which barred Arkansas from using vecuronium bromide in lethal injections. That injunction blocked a planned eight executions in eleven days in the state, but only temporarily. The Supreme Court lifted the injunction, allowing four of those planned executions to move forward.

While the AP reports that Arkansas depleted its supply of midazolam, a controversial sedative used in lethal injections, and McKesson wasn't planning on waiting until the state obtained more, suing to block Arkansas from using vecuronium bromide in the future. The state moved to dismiss the suit, but Judge Gray allowed the case to proceed.

Not on My Drugs

McKesson argues that its reputation as a manufacturer of life-saving drugs will be tarnished if its products are used to kill, and that state officials purchased the drug under false pretenses. It's also accusing Arkansas of forum shopping, noting that the state is trying to move the case to a more rural county after two Little Rock judges ruled in favor of McKesson in April.

In the meantime, the Natural State will apparently fight for its aggressive death penalty schedule, despite evidence that the line between executed and exonerated is razor thin.

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