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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

Company blocked from selling execution drug to MO

Thursday, 13 February 2014 00:23 Published in Local News

   A federal judge agreed late Wednesday to temporarily block an Oklahoma pharmacy from providing an execution drug to the Missouri Department of Corrections for use in an upcoming lethal injection.

   The temporary restraining order was issued after a federal lawsuit was filed in Tulsa by Missouri death row inmate Michael Taylor. His attorneys said the department contracts with The Apothecary Shoppe in Tulsa to provide compounded pentobarbital, the drug set to be used in Taylor's execution on Feb. 26.
   The lawsuit argued that several recent executions involving the drug indicate it would likely cause Taylor "severe, unnecessary, lingering and ultimately inhumane pain."
   In his order Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Terence Kern wrote that Taylor's attorneys submitted "facts demonstrating that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to plaintiff before defendant can be heard in opposition."
   The judge set a hearing for Tuesday and ordered the pharmacy to submit a response to the injunction by Friday. He said the order would remain in effect at least until the hearing.
   But it wasn't immediately clear if the execution would be delayed because of the ruling. The state has not revealed the name of the compounding pharmacy supplying the drug, and The Apothecary Shoppe previously declined to confirm or deny that it was the source of a drug used in an earlier Missouri execution.
   A pharmacy spokeswoman did not return telephone calls seeking comment late Wednesday. Phone and email messages were also left with the Missouri Department of Corrections and the Missouri Attorney General's Office.
   Taylor, 47, pleaded guilty in the 1989 abduction, rape and stabbing death of a 15-year-old Kansas City girl.
   One of Taylor's attorneys, Matthew Hellman of the Washington, D.C., law firm Jenner & Block, said the lawsuit focuses attention on the drug used in Missouri's lethal injections and the laws regarding compounding.
   "We're gratified the court entered the order," Hellman said after the Wednesday order. "This lawsuit is about an unacceptable option in carrying out the death penalty and this is why we're seeking to stop The Apothecary Shoppe from providing this unlawful drug."
   Missouri corrections officials turned to The Apothecary Shoppe to supply compounded pentobarbital after manufacturers of the drug refused to provide it for lethal injections, according to the lawsuit.
   In January 2012, a Danish company that had produced pentobarbital under the trade name Nembutal sold the exclusive rights to the drug to an American company, Akorn Inc., on the condition that Akorn not sell the drug for use in executions.
   "Those manufacturers do not want medication to be used for executions," Hellman said.
   Taylor's lawsuit questions whether the pharmacy can legally produce and deliver compounded pentobarbital. It says the pharmacy is not registered as a drug manufacturer with the Food & Drug Administration and alleges it violates federal law each time it delivers the drug across state lines to Missouri corrections officials.
   Along with asking for a temporary restraining order, the lawsuit seeks an injunction barring the pharmacy from delivering "this unidentified, unregulated, untested and unsafe pharmaceutical product." Hellman declined to say whether The Apothecary Shoppe also sells compounded pentobarbital to states other than Missouri.
   Several recent executions that involved compounded pentobarbital indicate use of the drug will subject Taylor to "inhumane pain," the lawsuit says.
   One such execution was that of Oklahoma death row inmate Michael Lee Wilson, 38. Within 20 seconds of receiving the lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on Jan. 9 Wilson said: "I feel my whole body burning." The lawsuit alleges the statement describes "a sensation consistent with receipt of contaminated pentobarbital."
   The lawsuit also sites an Oct. 15, 2012, execution in which South Dakota death row inmate Eric Robert, 50, cleared his throat, gasped for air and then snored after receiving the lethal injection. His skin turned a purplish hue and his heart continued to beat for 10 minutes after he stopped breathing. It took 20 minutes for authorities to finally declare Robert dead.
   "These events are consistent with receipt of a contaminated or sub-potent compounded drug," the lawsuit says.
   Use of the same drug in Taylor's execution could result in a similar reaction, Hellman said.
   "It is extremely disturbing," he said.
   On Monday, Missouri Corrections Department Director George Lombardi told a legislative panel that the agency pays for the drug to be independently tested to make sure it works and is sterile. He also said the agency had found no substantial issues in a background check of its current supplier.
   Lombardi did not release the name of the pharmacy that provides the drug, saying Missouri could not carry out lethal injections if that information were released. He said the state pays $8,000 in cash to the pharmacy for the drug.

 

Mom, stepdad charged in north city toddler's death

Wednesday, 12 February 2014 04:34 Published in Local News
   Two people are now facing charges in the death of a toddler in North St. Louis yesterday (Tuesday). Emergency crews were called to a home at Rowen and Ridge Avenues before dawn.  There they found the lifeless body of 23 month old Jabria Phillips.  Detectives say she died of blunt force trauma.  
   Her stepfather, Deonte Evans is accused of beating the girl to death.  He's charged with second degree murder. The toddler's mother, Shanika Evans, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child.  
   The toddler's grandmother Brenda Baker, who lives in Detroit, learned about Jabria's death through news reports.  She was understandably heartbroken when she spoke with Fox 2 News about her granddaughter. "She was very energetic," Baker said.  "She laughed...every time I saw her laugh, I saw my son laugh...now I don't even have that."  Baker says the girl's father died last year.
 

Bedrock GOP principle dropped in debt ceiling vote

Wednesday, 12 February 2014 02:47 Published in National News
   WASHINGTON (AP) — It was once the backbone of the House Republican majority — the hard-line stand that brought President Barack Obama to the negotiating table and yielded more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction.
   On Tuesday, it abruptly vanished, the victim of Republican disunity and a president determined not to bargain again.
   During the summer budget negotiations in 2011, House Speaker John Boehner had insisted that any increase in the nation's borrowing limit be matched dollar for dollar with spending cuts. It became the "Boehner Rule," a mantra of fiscal discipline. And while it didn't always live up to its tit-for-tat formula, it helped drive budget talks and kept deficit reduction at the fore of the Republican agenda.
   But there are limits to Republican power, and on Tuesday inevitability finally caught up to the speaker.
   Boehner let Congress vote on a measure to extend the nation's borrowing authority for 13 months without any spending conditions — a "clean bill" that was an unequivocal victory for Obama. It passed 221-201, with only 28 Republican votes. The Senate still has to approve the extension, but that's considered a mere formality in the Democratic-controlled chamber.
   Boehner's retreat hardly came as a surprise.
   Conservative lawmakers had failed to back a couple of proposed attachments aimed at Obama and his fellow Democrats. One would have approved the Keystone XL oil pipeline and the other would have repealed a provision of the health care law. Either of those faced unified Democratic opposition, so Boehner would have needed 218 Republican votes to pass it in the House. But conservatives were either determined to vote against the debt ceiling increase, no matter what, or found the provisions too small a price for their vote.
   "When you don't have 218 votes, you have nothing," Boehner said.
   Starting last year, Obama has steadfastly refused to negotiate over giving the Treasury Department the authority to borrow the money it needs to pay bills like Social Security benefits, payments on government debt and checks for federal workers.
   For Boehner, however, not all was lost. He placed the burden of extending Treasury's borrowing authority — not a politically popular vote — on the Democrats, and most members of his party got to vote no.
   What's more, the decision helped remove a potentially damaging diversion. Republican allies in the business community have long pleaded with Republicans not to play brinkmanship with the nation's credit. Last year's threat of default, followed by a partial government shutdown over stalled budget talks, harmed Republicans in the eyes of the public.
   Instead, Boehner and his leadership team have decided to keep the political focus on Obama's health care law, which they have targeted as the Achilles' heel for Democrats in this election year.
   It was the second time in two weeks that Boehner swept away an issue that threatened to overshadow the GOP attention on health care. He had outlined principles on how to achieve an overhaul of immigration law. But faced with a conservative outcry, Boehner last week deep-sixed the issue, declaring that immigration legislation this year was a long shot.
   "Boehner's thinking here is we have to pick the smarter fight," said Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist and former senior congressional leadership aide. "The smarter fight is Obamacare. If we get dragged into a protracted fight over the debt limit, like the one we saw over the government shutdown, it provides a distraction over the bigger issues the party can litigate."
   Conservative, tea party-aligned groups immediately objected to Boehner's decision, calling it a capitulation and demanding that Republicans vote against the debt ceiling increase.
   "When we heard that House leadership was scheduling a clean debt ceiling increase, we thought it was a joke," Andy Roth of the conservative Club for Growth wrote in an email to congressional offices. "Something is very wrong with House leadership, or with the Republican Party."
   But among lawmakers, the reaction was muted. When Boehner announced his decision in a private meeting with Republicans, one participant described the reaction as resigned silence. And during scheduled debate on the House floor, Rep. Dave Camp, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, was the only Republican to speak, reluctantly giving his support for allowing Treasury to borrow more money.
   "While I believe that we must increase our debt limit, I'm clearly not satisfied that there are no provisions that would help us address the long-term drivers of this debt," he said, before becoming one of the 28 Republicans who voted for the measure.
   This all could change if Republicans win control of the Senate in November. Republicans would then control Congress and Obama might have little recourse but to accept some Republican demands.
   A Republican victory in the fall, Madden said, would mean "the most recent electoral mandate would be favorable to the Republican bargaining position."
   Boehner, for one, was not giving up. Asked if the "Boehner Rule" was dead, he said, "I hope not."

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