Attorney General Mark Brnovich sent a pointed message August 20 to Gov. Doug Ducey: I can get you the necessary drugs when you’re finally ready to start executing murderers.
Brnovich noted that he has offered not once but twice before to help the governor and his Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry to find a legal source of lethal chemicals. To date, the governor has not responded.
Now, the attorney general said he’s done the work that technically is the responsibility of the state agency. And Brnovich said now that he’s found a supplier there’s no reason for further delay by Ducey who, in his six years as governor, has yet to sign a death warrant.
Ducey was noncommittal.
“This is the first letter that I’ve received saying that there’s an actual solution to what was a lack of product that’s there,” he said August 20. “And it was just received.”
What Ducey said he wants, are “the details,” including what is the source.
“And then I’ll have a response for you,” the governor said.
Ducey insisted that he’s not ducking the issue.
“I haven’t been reticent,” he said, “There’s been no opportunity.”
But the issue is not a new one.
Brnovich first offered more than a year ago to help Ducey and the Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry to get a new supply of lethal chemicals to begin executions on the more than 100 people on death row.
He pointed out at the time that U.S. Attorney General William Barr had just announced the federal government intends to resume executions and will use pentobarbital rather than the three-drug mixture that had previously been used.
Arizona has not had an execution since 2014 because of its inability to get lethal drugs through legal means. Brnovich said the federal government has found a legal supply of the drug, meaning the state should be able to also get its hands on it.
At that time there were 14 death-row inmates who had exhausted all their appeals.
Brnovich wrote to Ducey again last month, repeating the same offer after the federal government conducted its first execution.
In both cases, Brnovich aide Ryan Anderson said there was no formal response.
Now, Brnovich said, with the number of inmates who have exhausted their appeals at 20, he has located a supplier. All that’s needed is for Ducey or his agency to put in the order.
“The ball is in the governor’s or the Department of Corrections’ court,” Anderson said.
There was no immediate response from either the Governor’s Office or the corrections agency as to whether either had ever sought to obtain drugs for lethal injections.
The last known effort was in 2015 when the state ordered 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental, a muscle relaxant used in the execution process, from a supplier in India. That came after a domestic manufacturer refused to sell it to put people to death.
The decision to order the drugs came despite warnings by the FDA that buying the drug from India-based Harris Pharma would be illegal. Customs and Border Protection seized the drugs at Sky Harbor International Airport. They were never released.
Ducey has not expressed a personal opinion on the death penalty.
He was asked about it in 2018 after Pope Francis declared that death is unacceptable in all cases.
“I, of course, am going to listen to what the pope says,” Ducey said when asked about it. The governor is a Catholic.
“At the same time, I took an oath to uphold the law in Arizona,” he continued. “And I’m going to continue to uphold the law.”
Brnovich, in his latest letter, said the time has come.
“We must uphold the rule of law and respect court-ordered sentences,” he wrote to the governor. “It is our solemn obligation to all victims of heinous crimes, their families, and our communities, some of whom have been waiting for decades, for justice to be served.’