- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A group of Missouri taxpayers and former lawmakers on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Corrections over lethal injection policies used for executions.

The lawsuit, headed by former Democratic legislator Joan Bray, alleges the state uses an illegal prescription to obtain the execution drug pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy, violating state and federal law.

A spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s Office, which is representing the Department of Corrections, declined to comment on pending litigation.

The attorney for the group that filed the lawsuit, Justin Gelfand, said the lawsuit is not challenging the death penalty, but illegal execution practices.

“I’m shocked by the hypocrisy of a state government that reasonably expects Missourians to obey its laws, but then uses our taxes to illegally obtain drugs to execute people,” Bray said in a statement. “This lawsuit is intended to stop our government officials from violating the law, even if we live in a state with capital punishment.”

Former Democratic Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, a Catholic nun and a member of the Missouri NAACP, joined Bray in the lawsuit.

Missouri obtains its execution drug from an unnamed compounding pharmacy, and prison officials refuse to disclose details about how or if it is tested.

The lawsuit says receiving the drug from the pharmacy is illegal because state and federal law prohibits the use of compounded drugs commercially available in the marketplace and copies of drugs that are FDA-approved. Pentobarbital is FDA-approved.

The lawsuit also alleges the state uses a physician who is contractually obligated to fill prescriptions for the drug without conducting a medical exam, which the plaintiffs also say violates state and federal law.

Inmates facing the death penalty have repeatedly challenged the state’s use of pentobarbital with little success.

Attorneys for Walter Timothy Storey tried unsuccessfully to halt his execution over concerns about Missouri’s secretive process for obtaining and using the lethal injection drug. He was executed in February.

Gelfand said he hopes a Cole County Circuit judge will temporarily halt what he described as illegal executions. He said a hearing is scheduled for Friday, just days before a Tuesday execution scheduled for David Zink, who was convicted of abducting and killing a southwest Missouri woman in 2001.

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Follow Summer Ballentine at https://twitter.com/esballentine.


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