Almost nothing is known about how Nevada plans to conduct its first execution in 11 years later this month, but one thing is certain: The state will use fentanyl, a powerful opioid that caused more than 20,000 overdose deaths last year.
Lawyers for death row inmate Scott Dozier are battling with the state in court this week about the secrecy surrounding plans for his execution, set for Nov. 14. Nevada intends to use a sequence of three drugs for the lethal injection that’s never been used before — a sedative, fentanyl, and a paralytic. His lawyers say the combination leaves doubt about whether the execution will be humane.
“With so much secrecy around the execution plan, which has not been finalized, how can Nevadans even know simple facts such as whether the prison staff will be adequately trained to implement this experimental execution cocktail in a constitutional manner?” ACLU of Nevada Legal Director Amy Rose said in a statement last month.
Dozier, 46, was convicted of first and second degree murder for killing and dismembering two people in the early 2000s. The state has kept secret the details of its plan for the execution, including training for the execution staff and how the state acquired the drugs and from where.
During a hearing on Tuesday, Dozier’s lawyers argued in front of a local judge that the novel drug combination is dangerous. They are concerned that using a paralytic will mask any problems with the other two drugs, as Dozier will be unable to express pain or suffering. That’s suspected to have happened already in several other states with another drug, midazolam.
“We’re absolutely concerned about the fact that there’s been so little transparency in relation to the drug combination, the dosages, the sequence, the training going into the execution itself,” Lauren Kaufman, an attorney with the ACLU, told Las Vegas station CBS 8 in Last Vegas.
Dozier’s lawyers are calling on Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to halt the execution until the state makes its execution plan public, and it’s vetted by the courts.
State lawmakers are concerned about how the state acquired the fentanyl, an opioid at the center of an overdose crisis in the U.S. More than 20,000 people died from fentanyl overdoses in 2016.
“I don’t know why fentanyl is even allowed to be manufactured,” said state Sen. Tick Segerblom in an interview with VICE News in August. “People are killing themselves, drug abusers with fentanyl, and now the state is going to do the same thing to this guy.”
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.