LETHAL INJECTION: Execution Process Often Masked Behind a Veil of Secrecy

Controversies surrounding the lethal drugs used in U.S. executions continue to arise in many states. Documents obtained by the Associated Press reveal the secretive process in which the Delaware Department of Corrections obtained the drugs necessary for the its lethal injection process. Delaware officials solicited the help of the state’s Economic Development Director, Alan Levin, in obtaining lethal injection drugs after its previous supply expired in 2005. Levin, the former head of the Happy Harry’s drugstore chain, contacted the CEO of Cardinal Health Inc., a supplier of pentobarbital. “I was happy to help facilitate it,” said Levin, explaining that Happy Harry’s, which he sold in 2006 to Walgreen Co., had done business with Cardinal for a decade or more. “I understand the judicial system,” said Levin, a former prosecutor who added that he believes in the death penalty. DOC Commissioner Carl Danberg wrote in an e-mail to key lieutenants, “This is NOT for discussion or distribution to anyone, including your own staff until we get a chance to discuss… Emphasize that I do not want this discussed yet. Certainly not until the drugs are on hand. I am not even telling the AG yet.” The batch of drugs was delivered last June and was used in the lethal injection of Shannon Johnson, who was executed on April 20.

(R. Chase, “How Delaware got rare execution drug,” Associated Press, April 22, 2012). See Lethal Injection. Listen to DPIC’s podcast on Lethal Injection.