FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE : Monday, May 21, 2012
CONTACT: Sara Rabern, (605) 773-3215
AG Jackley Joins State Attorneys General Request to US AG Eric Holder to Address Lethal Injection Federal Policy
PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley has today joined 14 other State Attorneys General in requesting United States Attorney General Eric Holder to address federal lethal injection policy. The State Attorneys General are requesting that Attorney General Holder review recent federal policy, which may significantly impair the States’ ability to enforce their laws through capital punishment. In today’s correspondence, the Attorneys General emphasize that “at the very core of the States’ police powers are their powers to enact laws to protect their citizens against violent crimes…. Given that the United States itself utilizes lethal injection as a means of executing federal death row inmates, surely you understand the unfortunate position we have been put in by the FDA’s decision to treat the Beaty decision as a nationally-binding precedent.” The Attorneys General emphasized that if federal policy through the FDA does not change then “[w]e as State Attorneys General will be forced to take action to ensure execution by lethal injection remains a viable option.” Attorney General Jackley stated “I remain hopeful that federal authorities will work with State Attorneys General to alleviate any concerns and to assist State Attorneys General with enforcement of state criminal laws.” There are presently 34 states that permit use of the death penalty for the most serious offenses.
History Prospective of Federal Agency Concerns over Lethal Injection
On September 23, 2011, the DEA advised the South Dakota Department of Corrections that its supply of lethal injection substance could not be used. On October 5, 2011, Attorney General Jackley advised the DEA that the lethal injection substances were properly cleared by federal authorities through customs, and that the substances had independently tested positive for meeting the U.S. Pharmacopeia’s standards for safety and efficacy. The DEA was reminded that its responsibilities do not include the prevention of a state’s performance of legally imposed death sentences. Attorney General Jackley concluded by accepting the DEA’s offer to work “to promptly come to an appropriate resolution.”
To date, the DEA has not forwarded any further concerns associated with the state of South Dakota’s supply of sodium thiopental.
On April 6, 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised the state of South Dakota “to make arrangements for the return to the FDA of any foreign-manufactured thiopental in [its] possession.” On April 17, 2012, Attorney General Jackley informed the FDA that the lethal injection substances were properly cleared by federal authorities through customs, and that the substances have independently tested positive for meeting the U.S. Pharmacopeia’s standards for safety and efficacy. The FDA was reminded of its own stated position that drugs “used for the purpose of state-authorized lethal injection clearly fall outside of FDA’s explicit public health role.” The FDA was further reminded of the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ concern that death penalty abolitionists have attacked the sodium thiopental supply chain “to the point that the safety of American patients is now in jeopardy.”
Attorney General Jackley’s letter went on to inform the FDA that two South Dakota juries have served a death sentence on Donald Eugene Moeller who raped, sodomized, and stabbed to death a nine year old little girl 22 years ago. “Twenty-two years for a victim’s family to await justice is disturbing, particularly in light of Congress’s clear direction to the Department of Justice in the 2006 AEDPA amendments to establish the rules for the state death penalty certification procedures, a responsibility that appears to have gone unfulfilled.” As with the DEA, Attorney General Jackley concluded by offering to work with the FDA to promptly come to an appropriate resolution.