UPDATE: John Balentine's execution has been stayed; Lee Taylor and Eddie Powell's executions both went ahead.
Three more men are scheduled to die with Lundeck pentobarbital in the next 48 hours, as Texas prepares to kill John Balentine today (Wednesday) and Lee Taylor tomorrow, while Eddie Powell is due for execution tomorrow in Alabama.
All three men were convicted and condemned in flawed trials. John Balentine's attorney failed to present the jury with a wealth of mitigating evidence that might have saved his life. Lee Taylor was sent to prison when he was just 16 and later allegedly killed another prisoner in a fight; his defence was typically ineffective.
Eddie Powell's legal team have raised serious concerns about racial discrimination in his case. Of 29 African-Americans in the original jury pool, only one ended up on the jury, along with 11 white jurors. The jury voted by 11 to one that Eddie be put to death. In addition, Eddie’s mental disability likely renders his execution unconstitutional.
The US Supreme Court has turned down appeals from all three prisoners.
Texas and Alabama will execute the men in a clinically untested procedure using pentobarbital supplied by Lundbeck, a Danish pharmaceutical company. Lundbeck recently stated its desire to restrict the distribution of pentobarbital to prevent prisons from accessing the drug, adding that it could not ensure the ‘safety and efficacy’ of the product when used in executions.
Reprieve Investigator Maya Foa said: “The death toll is increasing at an alarming rate for Lundbeck; the sooner they put in place controls on the distribution of the drug, the better. Rigorous and committed action on the part of the Danish pharmaceutical company may not be enough to save Balentine, Powell and Taylor, but it could prevent others like them from suffering a similar fate; Lundbeck has a moral duty to act, and to act now.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information please contact Katherine O'Shea in Reprieve's press office on +44 (0)20 7427 1099 / (0) 7931592674
2. Legal action charity Reprieve has suggested a range of possible courses of action Lundbeck could take to put a stop to the use of its drugs in executions – a briefing on the issue can be found here:http://www.reprieve.org.uk/static/downloads/2011_05_12_PUB_NEMBUTAL_DISTRIBUTION_BRIEFING.pdf
3. So far, Lundbeck’s drugs have been used in 13 executions across seven US states, as follows:
Alabama: Jason Williams
Mississippi: Benny Stevens, Rodney Gray
Oklahoma: John David Duty, Billy Don Alverson, Jeffrey Matthews
Ohio: Johnnie Baston, Clarence Carter, Daniel Bedford
South Carolina: Jeffrey Motts
Texas: Cary Kerr, Gayland Bradford
Arizona: Donald Beaty
These numbers are growing fast as more and more states are turning to Lundbeck’s drugs following shortages of the previously-used anaesthetic sodium thiopental.
4. Lundbeck told Reprieve on Monday 6 June that they were reconsidering their position, but have yet to outline what concrete steps they will be taking to restrict supply. Further information can be found here:http://www.reprieve.org.uk/2011_06_06_Lundbeck_meeting_Wiinberg
5. A petition from leading doctors to Lundbeck can be viewed here: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/lundberg-stop-supplying-drugs-for-us-death-rows.html
Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 27 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.