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The drugs to execute criminals could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, California prison agency records show

May 10, 2016

Internal California prison agency records suggest the state might have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy drugs for lethal injection in executions, according to documents released Tuesday by a civil liberties group.

Public records obtained by the ACLU of Northern California show that prison officials were busy in 2014 trying to find sources of drugs which many manufacturers have refused to sell to authorities for the purpose of lethal injection.

At the time, court rulings had blocked executions, and the state planned to propose a new single-drug execution method. The last execution in California occurred in 2006.

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The emails show that potential suppliers wanted confidentiality and that the costs, at least initially, might be steep.

A May 2014 email obtained in the public records request said a compounding pharmacy agreed to provide pentobarbital, one of four proposed execution drugs, at an initial cost of $500,000 — and only if the company’s name was not released to the public.

Another email, written the month before, said the state had identified a different source for buying pentobarbital. That email noted that 18 inmates had exhausted their appeals and it would require about 324 grams of the drug to execute them all.

The email said the cost would be $1,109 for 500 milligrams in addition to fees to cover “service costs” and pay for lawyers.

“This is likely a one-time window to acquire this drug because of  pharmaceutical/anti-death penalty activity,” wrote Kelly L. McClease, whom the emails identified as an attorney in the legal division of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

There was no indication that the state purchased the drug, which would have cost about $718,632 for 18 executions in addition to unspecified fees.  The email said the chemical had a shelf life of 24 months, which means the drugs would have lost their potency by now.

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California unveiled a new single-drug execution method in November. The ACLU sued the state to obtain the internal records. Public comment on the proposed lethal injection protocol, which was supposed to end in January, has been extended to July because of the litigation.

The ACLU said it would post the documents on its website at 9 a.m. PDT.

A spokeswoman for the Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation said she could not comment because of ongoing litigation. She noted the proposed single-drug protocol is subject to public comment until July 11.

Twitter: @mauradolan


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