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Missouri Uses 'Mystery' Compound to Execute Convicted Murderer

States increasingly using 'unknown' and 'unregulated' drugs as controversy over cruelty of death penalty continues

Jon Queally, staff writer

Taylor's execution, the fourth in as many months by the state of Missouri, is highlighted by the ongoing fight over the use of lethal injection pharmaceuticals. (File/AP)

Though the official makers of the lethal drug pentobarbital now refuse to sell the lethal drug to those planning to use it for executing human being, that didn't stop the state of Missouri from finding some compounding agency from mixing up their own brew of it so that it could kill convicted murderer Michael Taylor early Wednesday morning.

Taylor's execution, the fourth in as many months by the state of Missouri, is highlighted by the ongoing fight over the use of lethal injection pharmaceuticals which, due to the stand made by European manufacturers and others, have been harder to come by in the United States.

Despite protests against use of drugs by unknown and unregulated sources, the state went ahead with the execution.

As KCUR, a local NPR affiliate in Kansas City, reports:

Taylor was the first Missouri inmate to be executed with a drug made by the state's new (and secret) compounding pharmacy. The previous one bowed out after facing a lawsuit once its identity got out.

Taylor's attorneys argued the supplier was changed at the last minute, taking away any opportunity for oversight.

"Utterly nothing is known about this pharmacy," his lawyers argued. "Has it been cited for violating federal and state laws more or less often than the previous pharmacy?"

The previous supplier was not licensed to sell in this state. It had also been cited in the past by its own state Board of Pharmacy.

Unlike previous executions, the state did not provide a testing report on the purity and potency of the drug, but said the said the execution would be "rapid" and "painless."

Compounding pharmacies aren't like drug manufacturers. Drug manufacturers are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, while compounding pharmacies are not. Manufactured drugs have a high assurance that the drugs are of a certain quality, while compounding pharmacies' products have a much higher failure rate.

Michael Taylor was convicted, along with Roderick Nunley, of the 1989 rape and murder of a fifteen year old girl, Ann Harris, who was kidnapped from her driveway while waiting for the bus to school. Nunley was also found guilty and remains on death row.


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