Nevada high court cancels oral arguments in execution case

September 19, 2018

FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2017 file photo, Nevada death row inmate Scott Dozier appears for his court hearing via video at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas. The Nevada Supreme Court has canceled plans for oral arguments this week on a state request to quickly decide whether a twice-delayed execution of Dozier should go forward despite drugmakers' protests. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP, File)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Nevada Supreme Court has canceled plans to hear oral arguments this week on a state request for a quick decision to let the execution of a condemned inmate go forward despite a lawsuit by drugmakers that don’t want their products used in a lethal injection.

A four-sentence order canceling Friday’s arguments in Carson City took the case involving Nevada and 15 other states off a fast track and made it unlikely that the twice-delayed execution can be rescheduled in November.

Attorneys for the state had argued that drugs would begin expiring Nov. 30. But testimony from the state’s prisons pharmacy chief last week before a state court judge in Las Vegas revealed that the Department of Corrections has stocks of drugs that would let it carry out an execution into next year.

Spokeswomen for the Corrections Department and Nevada state Attorney General Adam Laxalt declined to comment about the Supreme Court order.

It comes after Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez heard more than three days of testimony on a request by drugmakers Alvogen, Hikma Pharmaceuticals USA and Sandoz Inc. to extend a court order stopping Nevada from using their products — at least until a full civil trial can be held.

The judge said Monday she hoped to make her decision by Friday.

Siding with Nevada in the state Supreme Court fight are 15 of the 30 other U.S. states with capital punishment, led by Oklahoma and including Nebraska, where an inmate was put to death last month using a four-drug combination that for the first time included fentanyl. That’s the powerful opioid blamed for illegal-use drug overdose deaths nationwide.

They argue that harassment from advocacy groups and threats of company boycotts are keeping prison officials from enforcing the will of voters in their states.

Dozier’s lethal injection would be Nevada’s first since 2006. It would use the Alvogen product midazolam to sedate the inmate, followed by Hikma-made fentanyl and a Sandoz-produced paralyzing drug called cisatracurium and suppress his breathing until he dies.

Pharmaceutical firm attorneys argue that after state officials got no responses to nearly 250 plainly stated requests to fill orders for lethal injection drugs, officials resorted to deception and subterfuge to obtain them through a third-party supplier and then refused company demands to return them.

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