Drug company's lawsuit could derail scheduled Nevada execution

Scott Dozier wants to die by untested method, even if it’s painful

Drug maker goes to Clark County court to stop Nevada execution

Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez ordered the delay Wednesday morning in response to a challenge by New Jersey-based drugmaker Alvogen, which says it doesn't want its product, midazolam, used in "botched" executions.

"Using fentanyl in an execution is particularly odd and confusing because of its place in the opioid epidemic", said the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Nevada, Amy Rose.

Dozier, a twice-convicted killer who attempted suicide in the past, repeated his desire to die during a brief telephone interview Sunday with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

This is the second lawsuit of its kind in the USA from a pharmaceutical company, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks data about the death penalty and has criticized the way capital punishment is administered in America.

But questions have been raised about whether Nevada's department of corrections broke the law to obtain the fentanyl, and whether the multibillion-dollar distribution company that provided the drug ignored evidence it was to be used in an execution.

Officials plan on using an untried three-drug lethal injection made up of the sedative midazolam, the synthetic opioid fentanyl and the muscle paralytic cisatracurium.

The document notes that midazolam (one of three drugs that were to be used in the lethal injection cocktail) "is not approved for use in such an application".

"While Alvogen takes no position on the death penalty itself, Alvogen's products were developed to save and improve patients' lives and their use in executions is fundamentally contrary to this objective", the company said in its complaint.

A lawsuit filed by the pharmaceutical company Alvogen, however, put Dozier's execution by lethal injection on hold.

Las Vegas defense attorney Scott Coffee, who analyzes death penalty cases across the country, pointed to the drug company's reference to irreparable harm and said that even if the judge denies Alvogen's request, the company could pursue the claim with a higher court.

Nevada obtained the midazolam after its supply of another sedative, diazepam, commonly known as Valium, expired.

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The synthetic opioid fentanyl is a drug at the center of the US opioid crisis.

Jordan T. Smith, an assistant Nevada solicitor general, countered at Wednesday's hearing that the state didn't put up a "smokescreen" or do anything wrong in getting the drugs.

The midazolam is expected to render Dozier unconscious before he is injected with the fentanyl.

"Life in prison isn't a life", the 47-year-old told the Review-Journal.

David Juurlink, an expert in toxicology at the University of Toronto, told NPR that the role of fentanyl in this protocol is to sedate a person and stop their breathing. He is an honorably discharged Army veteran; a divorced father who became an emergency medical technician during his then-wife's high-risk pregnancy; a pastels painter; a landscaper; and a methamphetamine user, maker and dealer.

"You got something that's killing hundreds of people a day across the United States, and you got prisons who can't get death penalty drugs, so they're turning to the drug that's killing hundreds of people across the United States", he said.

Dozier was convicted of first-degree murder in 2007 for the slaying of 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller.

In 2005, Dozier was sentenced to 22 years in prison for shooting to death another drug-trade associate, 26-year-old Jasen Greene, whose body was found in 2002 in a shallow grave outside Phoenix. Miller's head was never found and he was identified by tattoos on his torso. A witness testified Dozier used a sledgehammer to break Greene's limbs so the corpse would fit in a plastic storage container. The state said it would explore whether it could appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Although Dozier dropped attempts to save his own life, he allowed federal public defenders to challenge the execution protocol.

In court papers, Alvogen also cited instances in Alabama, Arizona and Oklahoma in the past few years in which inmates given midazolam were left gasping or snorting, appeared to regain consciousness or took an unusually long time to die.

They argued that the untried three-drug combination would be less humane than putting down a pet.

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