Email reveals gallows humour on Death Row

Newly released documents show that top prison officials in California went begging to Arizona for a vital drug that is used in executing inmates on Death Row after its own supply ran out and then found an inappropriate form of words to express their gratitude when they got what they needed.

“You guys in AZ are life-savers,” Scott Kernan, California’s undersecretary for Corrections and Rehabilitation said in an email to his Arizona counterpart Charles Flanagan after taking delivery from him of a small amount of the knock-out drug sodium thiopental. “Buy you a beer next time I get that way.”

The exchange, which suggests a remarkable blitheness about the business at hand, was contained in documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union and made public yesterday.

An interruption in the supply of sodium thiopental has created difficulties for death chambers in several US states. Arizona and California have turned to a British drug-maker for new supplies after their traditional supplier in Illinois suffered production problems.

The batch of sodium thiopental donated by Arizona was meant to speed the execution of a man convicted of raping and murdering a teenage girl.

He is still on Death Row, pending a new legal challenge to the constitutionality of the use of lethal injections in California.

The new documents also show California prison officials chastising Texas for having plenty of sodium thiopental on hand but refusing to share. “It is unfortunate that Texas would not share some of its ‘well-stocked’ supply to help sister states, but down the road they may need help in some other way and this position does not help their image,” one officials said in a 29 September email to Mr Kernan.


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