Nevada Plans to Kill Condemned Prisoner with Fentanyl & Drug Linked to Botched Executions

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A drug manufacturer has filed suit in an attempt to stop an execution of a condemned prisoner slated for tonight. The drug company Alvogen, which makes the sedative midazolam, filed a complaint in Nevada’s Clark County on Tuesday, citing that the Nevada Department of Corrections illegally obtained the drug for use in the execution of Scott Dozier, a former meth dealer who was sentenced to die in 2007 for first-degree murder with a deadly weapon and robbery with a deadly weapon. Last year, Dozier dropped his death penalty appeals and asked to be executed. Nevada officials plan to use an untested three-drug protocol of midazolam, fentanyl and cisatracurium to execute Dozier. Today’s execution would be the first time in 12 years that Nevada is carrying out the death penalty. We speak with Maurice Chammah, staff writer at The Marshall Project. His profile on Scott Dozier is titled “The Volunteer: More than a year ago, Nevada death row prisoner Scott Dozier gave up his legal appeals and asked to be executed. He’s still waiting.”

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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to Nevada, where a drug manufacturer has filed suit in an attempt to stop an execution slated for tonight. The drug company Alvogen, which makes the sedative midazolam, filed a complaint in Nevada’s Clark County on Tuesday, citing that the Nevada Department of Corrections illegally obtained the drug for use in the execution of convicted murderer Scott Dozier.

AMY GOODMAN: Nevada officials plan to use an untested three-drug protocol—of midazolam; the painkiller, the opioid fentanyl; and the paralytic drug cisatracurium—for Dozier’s execution. Nevada will become the first state to use fentanyl as part of its deadly drug cocktail.

Today’s execution will be the first time in 12 years Nevada is carrying out the death penalty. Dozier, a former meth dealer, was sentenced to die in 2007 for first-degree murder with a deadly weapon and robbery with a deadly weapon in the 2002 slaying of another dealer, Jeremiah Miller. Last year, Dozier dropped his death penalty appeals and asked to be executed. The procedure is slated to be carried out today at 8 p.m. in Nevada at the Ely State Prison.

For more, we’re joined by Maurice Chammah, staff writer at The Marshall Project, his profile of Scott Dozier titled “The Volunteer: More than a year ago, Nevada death row prisoner Scott Dozier gave up his legal appeals and asked to be executed. He’s still waiting.”

Welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about this case. First, talk about the man who’s going to die tonight, who says he wants to die, the “volunteer,” he’s called, and these drugs that are going to be used on him.

MAURICE CHAMMAH: Sure. It’s sort of a strange situation and a kind of a confluence of factors. Scott Dozier has been on death row for many years for this murder in Las Vegas about a decade ago. And he decided a couple of years ago that he didn’t want to fight his appeals anymore, that he would rather be dead than spend the rest of his life in the conditions of death row. He’s very open about that. He’s very sort of articulate about his reasons. We’ve spoken at length about that.

And what that decision set off was kind of, honestly, sort of chaos in the Nevada legal and correctional system, where having not carried out an execution in more than a decade, the state needed execution drugs to use in its lethal injection execution chamber. They had just built a new execution chamber that’s never been used before. More than 200 different drug companies, distributors, manufacturers, said they wouldn’t sell drugs, that it sort of went against their company policies. This is an ongoing problem for many states that want to carry out executions, and Nevada is one of them. And the result was that Nevada then announced it would use this new cocktail that had never been used before, that featured fentanyl, the opioid.

And Dozier, for his part, said he didn’t really care how the execution was carried out. He’d prefer the firing squad, he told me. But what happened was, he let his lawyers sort of get involved in litigating over the pain that could be caused by this execution, and that set off sort of this stop-start court battle that goes back now to, you know, last fall and has sort of ground forward up to the Nevada Supreme Court and is now, finally, going to lead potentially to his execution, unless a judge in Las Vegas today stops it as a result of the drug company’s concerns.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You mentioned your interview with him. I want to go to a clip from The Marshall Project’s short video on Scott Dozier speaking about why he gave up his legal appeals.

SCOTT DOZIER: My sister points out, it’s a lot like a terminal disease. You know, if he had cancer and told me he was miserable and he wanted to stop treatment, I’m not going to argue with him about it. And they believe me. I mean, my family believes me when I tell them I’d rather be dead than this. Not only do I love my brother and sister dearly, but I like them, too. In and of themselves, each of them is amazing, cool people. So, not—I mean, you know what I mean? There’s no—like, there are very few people who I regular spend time with. My sister is like low-key, hilarious. My brother is just one of the—just one of the sweetest guys in the world. You know what I’m saying? Yeah, I mean, I don’t—I don’t know if I can talk about it further without getting emotional, but, yes, we are very close. Love them dearly, dearly, dearly. Brother is having a real tough time with it. No one thinks it’s a star idea, by any stretch. But they all understand. Yeah, I don’t want to reveal—I mean, I honor their privacy on this. But yeah, yeah, I’m very close to them. They’re—they’re awesome.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Scott Dozier in an interview. I wanted to ask you—you mentioned several states have the same problem of, they effectively have not used the death penalty, even though it’s still on the books.

MAURICE CHAMMAH: Right.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And so that these volunteers become the main way to—the executions to go forward. Could you—

MAURICE CHAMMAH: That’s right. There are multiple states in which almost all or all of the people who have been executed over the past 20, 30 years have been these volunteers who give up their appeals. There are a lot of defense attorneys who protest this and say, you know, we, as a society, have an interest in fair cases and fair appeals happening. We shouldn’t let people sort of carry out what’s effectively a kind of state-assisted suicide through our death penalty, right? We’ll be watching to see how the Supreme Court deals with this. You know, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who departed recently—

AMY GOODMAN: Is departing.

MAURICE CHAMMAH: Is departing, excuse me—is departing soon—has been a key voice in sort of restricting the use of the death penalty. It’s hard to know where Kavanaugh will land. But, overall, the court seems to be sort of interested—

AMY GOODMAN: Or if he lands on the Supreme Court.

MAURICE CHAMMAH: That’s true. Yeah, he might not. It might be someone else. It might be, you know—but the sort of by and large, it seems like the Supreme Court is moving in a direction of allowing executions to go forward. They have overwhelmingly sort of said, you know, states can try whatever they want. There isn’t a lot of restriction in that domain.

AMY GOODMAN: And the midazolam manufacturer is suing for their drug not to be used in the cocktail?

MAURICE CHAMMAH: That’s right. Honestly, if there’s one thing stopping executions in states like Nevada, it’s these drug companies who don’t want their drugs used. And that’s what is happening today. The drug company Alvogen, which makes midazolam, the sedative in the cocktail, is saying—is accusing Nevada of getting the drug in an illegal way, “by subterfuge,” was the phrase they used.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s “subterfuge”?

MAURICE CHAMMAH: Subterfuge, like sort of lying to the distributor of the drug—right?—about how it was going to be used. And now is saying that the execution shouldn’t go forward because this is an illegal use of their product.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re writing a book on the death penalty.

MAURICE CHAMMAH: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: The significance of this case in the overall fight against the death penalty, in the last 20 seconds we have?

MAURICE CHAMMAH: Sure. The significance of this case is that it really, I think, marks a bit of a bellwether for whether states that for many years had seemed to be moving in a direction away from the death penalty—you know, less executions, less death sentences—are going to maybe start things up again. And we’ll be watching to see whether states like Nevada, Nebraska, others, sort of try to mark a new chapter of using the death penalty more often.

AMY GOODMAN: Maurice Chammah, we want to thank you for being with us, staff writer at The Marshall Project, his profile on Scott Dozier headlined “The Volunteer: More than a year ago, Nevada death row prisoner Scott Dozier gave up his legal appeals and asked to be executed. He’s still waiting.” We’ll link to that at democracynow.org.

Also, Democracy Now! is currently accepting applications for a full-time news producer position here in New York. Go to democracynow.org to learn more how you can apply today.

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