Politics & Government

State to use single drug to execute, not a mix

Washington state has changed its method of execution from a three-drug cocktail to a one-drug system, according to paperwork filed Tuesday with the state Supreme Court.

The filing by state Attorney General Rob McKenna reveals that the state Department of Corrections made the decision Thursday. McKenna wants the high court to dismiss portions of the appeal of death-row inmate Darold Stenson, arguing that a challenge of the drug protocol’s constitutionality is now moot.

The department is in the process of rewriting the execution policy that will make Washington the second state in the nation to use the one-drug method.

Ohio switched in January after the botched execution of Romell Broom that was halted by Gov. Ted Strickland in September. Executioners unsuccessfully tried for hours to find a usable vein for injection, and Broom has appealed the state’s attempt to try again.

Ohio has executed three men under the new method since December.

The three-drug method uses sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Only sodium thiopental, followed by a saline flush, is used in the one-drug policy. Under the amended policy in Washington state, an additional 5 grams of sodium thiopental will be made available at the time of execution in case the first dose does not kill the inmate.

The motion filed with the court Tuesday said the decision to amend the protocol was made in light of both Ohio’s use of the method and “the opinions of experts who have advised the department.”

The new policy will change the presumed method for lethal injection to the one-drug protocol, but the three-drug injection method will be allowed for inmates who request it.

“The Department maintains that the three-drug protocol is constitutional,” the motion reads.

Stenson, who shot his wife and his business partner in Clallam County, is one of three death-row inmates suing Washington state, arguing that its preferred method of execution needed a major overhaul to satisfy constitutional bans on cruel punishment.

Also suing are Jonathan Gentry, who killed a 12-year-old girl in Kitsap County, and Cal Coburn Brown, who tortured and killed a Burien woman.