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California Obtains New Supply Of Lethal Injection Drug

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SAN QUENTIN (AP) — Prison officials obtained a drug essential to the lethal injection process the day after California’s first execution in nearly five years was canceled, partly due to a shortage of that very drug, a court filing stated Wednesday.

The state Attorney General’s office told U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel it obtained 12 grams of sodium thiopental with last Thursday, the same day Albert Greenwood Brown was to be executed. But the execution was called off the day before when the Attorney General’s office said a state Supreme Court ruling and its apparent drug shortage made it impossible to execute Brown on Thursday. The government lawyers cited the state high court ruling in dropping its federal appeals to execute Brown.

Now that it has enough of the drug to execute four inmates, it’s unclear whether a new execution date for Brown or several other inmates who have exhausted all of their appeals would be immediately sought.

A few hours after Brown’s lethal injection was canceled last Wednesday, Attorney General spokeswoman Christine Gasparac said a “new execution date will be sought in accordance with applicable law and in conformity with all court orders.”

Fogel said Tuesday it was his “understanding” that that the state “will not seek to obtain any execution dates until at least thirty days after the conclusion” of court hearings that have yet to be scheduled but are expected after the New Year.

Fogel said he wants the attorney general’s office and Brown’s office to submit written arguments before he schedules any court hearings, one of which may be held at San Quentin prison so the judge can inspect the state’s new death chamber.

Fogel said in an order Tuesday that the hearings will be scheduled after government lawyers and Brown’s attorneys submit written arguments by Dec. 20.

But Fogel’s order Tuesday was issued before the state disclosed it had obtained a new shipment of the drug, which the judge presumed wouldn’t be delivered until early next year. That’s because the only company in the nation that makes the drug said production problems will prevent it from making new deliveries until January at the earliest.

Hospira Inc. of Lake Forest, Ill. said it disapproves of the drug’s use in executions and states that employ lethal injection purchase sodium thiopental from a third party.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton declined comment.

(© 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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