A death row inmate’s fentanyl execution was stopped with hours to go

Scott Dozier is volunteering to die, but a drug company that makes midazolam does not want to be involved.

Nevada’s plan to execute its first death row inmate in a dozen years is officially on hold, just a few hours before that execution was scheduled to take place.

Nevada District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez temporarily blocked the Nevada Department of Corrections Wednesday from using one of the key drugs in its planned execution of Scott Dozier, after the drug’s manufacturer sued the agency and accused the state of acquiring the drug through deception. Without the drug, Nevada says it won’t be able to execute convicted murderer Dozier Wednesday evening, as it had planned.


Last week, the Nevada Department of Corrections announced that it would execute Dozier using an previously-untested combination of the paralytic cisatracurium, the synthetic opioid fentanyl, and the sedative midazolam. On Tuesday, midazolam manufacturer Alvogen sued Nevada and its corrections department, accused it of acquiring the company’s midazolam “by subterfuge with the undisclosed and improper intent to use it for the upcoming execution.”

Read: Nevada's fentanyl execution reignites debate over role of doctors in the death penalty

“Alvogen is in the business of making and selling life-preserving medication and drugs. That’s its business,” Tom Bice, an attorney for Alvogen, said in a hearing over the lawsuit Wednesday. “This use is completely incompatible with that business. And it’s completely harmful to that business.”

In recent years, drug manufacturers and distributors have increasingly sought to stop states from using their products in executions. In a statement after Gonzalez issued her temporary restraining order, Alvogen said it refuses to let prison systems or departments of correction buy midazolam, either directly or through distributors and wholesalers.

“While Alvogen does not take a political stance on executions, Alvogen endorses the use of its products in accordance with FDA-approved indications, and does not condone the use of any of its drug products, including midazolam, for use in state sponsored executions,” Alvogen added.


Read: What you need to know about Nevada's plan to execute inmate Scott Dozier with fentanyl

The Nevada Department of Corrections didn’t immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment. But during the hearing, an attorney for Nevada argued that Alvogen probably lacked the legal authority to even bring a challenge against Nevada.

“They don’t want bad press,” the attorney, Jordan Smith, said, calling Alvogen’s claims that its reputation would suffer “ambiguous and speculational.”

Dozier has given up his appeals, a move that amounts to volunteering to die. In an exclusive on-camera interview with VICE News earlier this week, Dozier said that he was aware that death row inmates injected with midazolam have reportedly made gasping noises and lingered long after they were predicted to die.

“I was going to bring that up with my mother and say, ‘Listen, just so you know I've talked to people and [that] happens with midazolam,’” said Dozier. “‘No one has recollection of it, so don't take that as indications that I'm having a bad time.’”

“So do you expect for that to happen?” VICE News correspondent Gianna Toboni asked.

“I do,” Dozier replied.

“And you're cool with that?” Toboni asked. “I don't care,” he said. “I'm not gonna get up off that fucking table.”

The state will likely file an emergency appeal to Gonzalez’s decision, Nevada Independent reporter Riley Snyder reported.

Watch: Scott Dozier isn't afraid to be executed with fentanyl: "just bang me up man"

Cover image: Scott Dozier in the Ely State Prison in Ely, Nevada. (Photo: Mike Lopez/VICE News)