In a clear national trend, seven states (Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and South Carolina) have used pentobarbital instead of sodium thiopental in their executions in 2011. The most recent such execution was that of Donald Beaty in Arizona on May 25, following a temporary stay as the state made a sudden switch to the new drug. Ohio is the only one of the seven states to use pentobarbital as the sole drug in its lethal-injection process. At least five states (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and South Carolina) that acquired sodium thiopental through an overseas source have had the drug seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. In addition, Arizona was instructed by the DEA not to use its foreign sodium thiopental just prior to the May 25 execution. Arkansas and California also have supplies of sodium thiopental originally obtained from a supplier in Great Britain. In Nebraska, questions about its supply of sodium thiopental—obtained from a company in India—has postponed the execution of Carey Dean Moore. South Dakota’s sodium thiopental was also reportedly obtained from India. Other states like Georgia, Louisiana, and Virginia have indicated they intend to switch to pentobarbital in future executions.

For more information about changes in states’ lethal injection procedures, visit our page on Lethal Injection. For a state-by-state listing of which drugs are being used, and where states obtained lethal injection drugs, see our State-by-state lethal injection page. You can also visit our 2011 Execution List for information on the kind of lethal injection used in each of this year’s executions.

(J. Hensley & J. Walsh, “Arizona inmate put to death by lethal injection,” The Arizona Republic, May 25, 2011; R. Tysver, “Moore execution postponed,” Omaha World-Herald, ay 26, 2011).