The Arizona Supreme Court stayed the execution of Donald Beaty that was scheduled for May 25 after the state Department of Corrections tried to make last-minute changes to the execution protocol. On May 24 the U.S. Department of Justice told Arizona not to use its supply of sodium thiopental because it had been obtained illegally from a company in Great Britain. Arizona’s Attorney General filed notice with the Arizona Supreme Court stating that, to “avoid questions about the legality” of the drug, pentobarbital would be used in its place. The Court issued the stay in order to give Beaty time to review the changes to the execution procedure and scheduled a hearing for May 25. In 2010, Arizona purchased sodium thiopental, the anesthetic used in lethal injections, from Dream Pharma in England. The drug was used in the executions of Jeffrey Landrigan and Eric King, despite concerns about its legality. After the Drug Enforcement Administration seized imported supplies of the drug from five other states, lawyers for Mr. Beaty contacted the Department of Justice asking why Arizona’s supply had not also been seized. Six other states have already used pentobarbital in executions. Beaty’s lawyer, Dale Baich, said he had repeatedly inquired about the legality of Arizona’s drug: “I sent three letters to the DOJ and made calls to the DEA that were not returned,” said Baich. “The question of whether Arizona legally imported the drug has now been answered.” UPDATE: The Arizona Supreme Court lifted the temporary stay of execution, allowing it to go forward on the scheduled day, barring a reprieve from a federal court.

(A. de Vogue, “DOJ Tells Arizona it Illegally Obtained Death Penalty Drug,” ABC News, May 25, 2011; P. Davenport, “State Supreme Court grants temporary stay of execution for Arizona inmate Donald Beaty,” Associated Press, May 25, 2011.) See also Lethal Injection.