Criminal Justice

Live chat: Lens, St. Louis Public Radio reporters discuss controversy over lethal injection drugs

Next week, the state of Louisiana plans to execute convicted child killer Christopher Sepulvado — unless his lawyers convince a judge or the U.S. Supreme Court that it should be delayed due to questions about the state’s lethal injection method.

Tuesday night in Missouri, the scheduled execution of Herbert Smulls, convicted of killing a jeweler, was postponed so the U.S. Supreme Court could review the case. Part of the appeal relates to questions about the quality and source of the lethal injection drug.

Both states’ execution plans call for a single drug, pentobarbital. That drug is hard to come by after the manufacturer outlawed its use in executions. Some states have turned to compounding pharmacies, which mix drugs for special cases.

Due to problems procuring pentobarbital, this week the Louisiana Department of Corrections changed its rules to allow for a two-drug mix used for the first time in Ohio in January. In that case, inmate Dennis McGuire “appeared to gasp several times and took more than 15 minutes to die.”

Thursday at 1 p.m. CT, you can discuss these cases with the Lens and St. Louis Public Radio reporters who have followed these cases:

They’ll talk about states’ recent difficulties in finding execution drugs, questions about new drug mixes and the secrecy surrounding states’ execution protocols. Submit your comments and questions; I’ll moderate and post them.

Before the chat starts you can pose your questions in the comments section below.

Live chat

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About Steve Myers

Steve Myers is editor of The Lens. Before joining the staff in 2012, Myers was managing editor of Poynter Online, the preeminent source of news and training about the journalism industry. At Poynter, he wrote about emerging media practices such as citizen journalism, nonprofit news sites, real-time reporting via social media, data-oriented news apps, iPhoneography, and the fact-checking movement. Six of his 10 years in newspapers were spent as a local government reporter in Mobile, Ala., where he focused on local government accountability, from jail management to hurricane preparation and response. He can be reached at (504) 298-9750.

  • Stephen Pope

    I am Stephen Pope a reporter with Allvoices and would like to know what obstacles other reporters have obtaining information on the source of the drug(s) and the doctor(s) who write the prescriptions using FOIA/state open records act requests?

  • Gloria Lloyd

    What is the federal lethal injection protocol? Couldn’t states just use what the federal government uses?