State by State Lethal Injection
Until 2009, most states used a three-drug combination for lethal injections: an anesthetic (usually sodium thiopental, until pentobarbital was introduced at the end of 2010), pancuronium bromide (a paralytic agent, also called Pavulon), and potassium chloride (stops the heart and causes death). Due to drug shortages, states have adopted new lethal-injection methods, including:
ONE DRUG: Eight states have used a single-drug method for executions--a lethal dose of an anesthetic (Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and Washington). Six other states have at one point or another announced plans to use a one-drug protocol, but have not carried out such an execution (Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee).
PENTOBARBITAL: Fourteen states have used pentobarbital in executions: Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia. Five additional states plan to use pentobarbital: Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Colorado includes pentobarbital as a backup drug in its lethal-injection procedure.
MIDAZOLAM: Four states have used midazolam as the first drug in the three-drug protocol: Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Virginia. Oklahoma used midazolam in the botched execution fo Clayton Lockett in April 2014, and Lockett died after the procedure was halted. Alabama's use of midazolam in the execution of Ronald Smith in December 2016, resulted in nearly fifteen minutes of Smith heaving and gasping for breath. Arkansas intends to use midazolam in the three-drug protocol in carrying out executions in April 2017. In January 2017, Florida abandoned its use of midazolam as the first drug in its three-drug protocol and replaced it with etomidate. Two states have used midazolam in a two-drug protocol consisting of midazolam and hydromorphone: Ohio (Dennis McGuire) and Arizona (Joseph Wood). Both of those executions, which were carried out in 2014, were prolonged and accompanied by the prisoners' gasping for breath. After its botched execution of McGuire, Ohio abandoned its use of midazolam in a two-drug protocol, but then in October 2016 decided to keep midazolam in a three-drug protocol. In December 2016, Arizona abandoned its use of midazolam in either a two-drug or a three-drug protocol. Three states have, at some point, proposed using midazolam in a two-drug protocol (Louisiana, Kentucky, and Oklahoma) but none of those states has followed through with that formula. Some states have proposed multiple protocols. Missouri administered midazolam to inmates as a sedative before the official execution protocol began.
COMPOUNDING PHARMACIES: At least ten states have either used or intend to use compounding pharmacies to obtain their drugs for lethal injection. South Dakota carried out 2 executions in October 2012, obtaining drugs from compounders. Missouri first used pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy in the November 20, 2013 execution of Joseph Franklin. Texas first used pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy in the execution of Michael Yowell on October 9, 2013. Georgia used drugs from an unnamed compounding pharmacy for an execution on June 17, 2014. Oklahoma has used drugs from compounding pharmacies in executions, including in the botched execution of Lockett. Virginia first used compounded pentobarbital obtained through the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in the execution of Alfredo Prieto on October 1, 2015. Ohio announced plans to obtain drugs from compounding pharmacies in October, 2013. In March 2014, Mississippi announced plans to use pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy. Documents released in January 2014, show that Louisiana had contacted a compounding pharmacy regarding execution drugs, but it is unclear whether the drugs were obtained there. Pennsylvania may have obtained drugs from a compounder, but has not used them. Colorado sent out inquiries to compounding pharmacies for lethal injection drugs, but all executions are on hold.
ALTERNATE METHODS: Three states have passed laws allowing for alternative execution methods if lethal-injection drugs are unavailable. Oklahoma's law, effective as of November 2015, allows for the use of nitrogen gas asphyxiation. Tennessee's law allows for the use of the electric chair. Utah's law allows the firing squad to be used if the state cannot obtain lethal-injection drugs 30 days before an execution. New Hampshire allows for hanging "if for any reason the commissioner [of corrections] finds it to be impractical to carry out the punishment of death by administration of the required lethal substance or substances."
In federal executions, the method is lethal injection, which was the method used in all three of the federal executions in the modern era have been by lethal injection carried out in a federal facility in Indiana. Apparently, a three-drug combination was used, though prison officials did not reveal the exact ingredients. (See Washington Post, Dec. 5, 2000). The U.S. Military has not carried out any executions since reinstatement. It plans to use lethal injection.
LETHAL INJECTION "FIRSTS"
First state to use lethal injection: Texas, December 7, 1982
First state to use one-drug method: Ohio, December 8, 2009 (single drug was sodium thiopental)
First state to use pentobarbital in three-drug protocol: Oklahoma, December 16, 2010
First state to use pentobarbital in one-drug protocol: Ohio, March 10, 2011
First state to use midazolam in three-drug protocol: Florida, October 15, 2013
First state to use midazolam in two-drug protocol: Ohio, January 16, 2014
For drugs used in individual executions, see Executions in 2009, Executions in 2010, Executions in 2011, Executions in 2012, Executions in 2013, Executions in 2014, Executions in 2015, and Executions in 2016.
|State||Link to current protocol||Most recently-used execution protocol||Previous protocols (Dates used, # of executions)||Status of protocol||Secrecy policies or statutes|
|Alabama||Not publicly available||3-drug, beginning with midazolam (1/21/16-present, 2 executions)||
3-drug, beginning with pentobarbital (5/19/11-7/25/13, 5 executions)
3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (12/12/02-3/31/11, 27 executions)
|Litigation ongoing, but executions may proceed||There is no statute that requires secrecy, but it is the position of the Department generally that the lethal-injection protocol is confidential and outside the purview of a public records request.|
|Arizona||Eff. Jan. 11, 2017||2-drug, midazolam and hydromorphone (7/23/14, 1 execution)||
1-drug pentobarbital (2/29/12-10/23/13, 8 executions)
3-drug, beginning with pentobarbital (5/25/11-7/19/11, 3 executions)
3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (3/3/93-3/29/11, 24 executions)
Executions placed on hold per court order during pending lethal injection litigation.
|The protocol states, in part: "The anonymity of any person, as defined in A.R.S. § 1-215(28) and A.R.S. § 13-105(30), who participates in or performs any ancillary function(s) in the execution, including the source of the execution chemicals, and any information contained in records that would identify those persons are, as required by statute, to remain confidential and are not subject to disclosure. A.R.S. § 13-757(C)." (First appeared in protocol dated March 26, 2014)|
|Arkansas||Eff. Aug. 6, 2015||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (6/25/90-11/28/05, 26 executions)||None||Litigation ongoing, but executions may proceed||Ark. Code Ann. §5-4-617 states, in part: "(i)(1) The procedures under subdivision (g)(1) of this section, the implementation of the procedures under subdivision (g)(1) of this section, and the identities of the entities and persons who participate in the execution process or administer the lethal injection are not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act of 1967, § 25-19-101 et seq."|
|California||No current protocol in place||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (2/23/96-1/17/06, 11 executions)||None||
|Colorado||Eff. May 2013||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (10/13/97, 1 execution)||None||Executions on hold||
|Florida||Eff. Jan. 4, 2017||3-drug, beginning with midazolam (10/15/13-1/7/16, 13 executions)||
3-drug, beginning with pentobarbital (9/28/11-10/1/13, 10 executions)
3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (2/23/00-2/16/10, 25 executions)
|Litigation ongoing; new protocol has not yet been reviewed||Fla. Stat. Ann. §945.10 states, in part: "(1) Except as otherwise provided by law or in this section, the following records and information held by the Department of Corrections are confidential and exempt from the provisions [of public records act]. . . (g) Information which identifies an executioner, or any person prescribing, preparing, compounding, dispensing, or administering a lethal injection."|
|Georgia||Eff. July 17, 2012||1-drug pentobarbital (2/21/13-12/6/16, 17 executions)||
3-drug, beginning with pentobarbital (6/23/11-9/21/11, 3 executions)
3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (10/25/01-1/25/11, 26 executions)
|Ga. Code Ann. §42-5-36(d)(2) states, in part: "The identifying information of any person or entity who participates in or administers the execution of a death sentence and the identifying information of any person or entity that manufactures, supplies, compounds, or prescribes the drugs, medical supplies, or medical equipment utilized in the execution of a death sentence shall be confidential and shall not be subject to disclosure under Article 4 of Chapter 18 of Title 50 or under judicial process. Such information shall be classified as a confidential state secret."|
|Idaho||Eff. Jan 6, 2012||1-drug pentobarbital (6/12/12, 1 execution)||
3-drug, beginning with pentobarbital (11/18/11, 1 execution)
3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (1/6/94, 1 execution)
|Idaho Administrative Code 06.01.01.135 states, in part: "The Department will not disclose (under any circumstance) the identity of the on-site physician; or staff, contractors, consultants, or volunteers serving on escort or medical teams; nor will the Department disclose any other information wherein the disclosure of such information could jeopardize the Department's ability to carry out an execution."|
|Indiana||Eff. Jan. 22, 2014||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (7/18/96-12/11/09, 17 executions)||None||Litigation ongoing||Ind. Code §35-38-6-6 states, in part: "(e) The department of correction: (1) shall keep confidential the identities of persons who assist the superintendent of the state prison in an execution; and (2) may: (A) classify as confidential; and (B) withhold from the public; any part of a document relating to an execution that would reveal the identity of a person who assists the superintendent in the execution."|
|Kansas||No current protocol||No executions carried out.||None||Kan. Stat. Ann. §22-4001 states, in part: "The identity of executioners and other persons designated to assist in carrying out the sentence of death shall be confidential."|
|Kentucky||No current protocol||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (5/25/99-11/21/08, 2 executions)||None||Litigation ongoing||Ky. Rev. Stat. §45A.720 states, in part: "Agreements with an individual to provide the services of executioner for the Department of Corrections shall not be subject to the provisions of KRS 45A.690 to 45A.725. The identity of an individual performing the services of executioner shall remain confidential and shall not be considered as public record for the purposes of KRS 61.870 to 61.884."|
|Louisiana||Not publicly available||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (3/5/93-1/7/10, 8 executions)||None||Litigation ongoing||La. Rev. Stat. §15:570 states, in part: "G. The identity of any persons other than the persons specified in Subsection F of this Section who participate or perform ancillary functions in an execution of the death sentence, either directly or indirectly, shall remain strictly confidential and the identities of those persons and information about those persons which could lead to the determination of the identities of those persons shall not be subject to public disclosure in any manner. Any information contained in records that could identify any person other than the persons specified in Subsection F of this Section shall remain confidential, shall not be subject to disclosure, and shall not be admissible as evidence nor discoverable in any proceeding before any court, tribunal, board, agency, or person."|
|Mississippi||3-drug, beginning with pentobarbital (5/10/11-6/20/12, 8 executions)||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (7/17/02-7/21/10, 9 executions)||Litigation ongoing||Miss. Code Ann. §99-19-51 states, in part: "The identities of all members of the execution team, a supplier of lethal injection chemicals, and the identities of those witnesses listed in Section 99-19-55(2) who attend as members of the victim's or the condemned person's immediate family shall at all times remain confidential, and the information is exempt from disclosure under the provisions of the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983.1"|
|Missouri||Eff. Oct. 18, 2013||1-drug pentobarbital (11/20/13-1/31/17, 20 executions)||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (1/6/89-2/9/11, 68 executions)||
Mo. Rev. Stat. 546.720 states, in part: "The identities of members of the execution team, as defined in the execution protocol of the department of corrections, shall be kept confidential. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, any portion of a record that could identify a person as being a current or former member of an execution team shall be privileged and shall not be subject to discovery, subpoena, or other means of legal compulsion for disclosure to any person or entity, the remainder of such record shall not be privileged or closed unless protected from disclosure by law."
Protocol was amended in October 2013 to expand the definition of execution team: "The execution team consists of department employees and contracted medical personnel including a physician, nurse, and pharmacist. The execution team also consists of anyone selected by the department director who provides direct support for the administration of lethal chemicals, including individuals who prescribe, compound, prepare, or otherwise supply the chemicals for use in the lethal injection procedure."
|Montana||Eff. Jan. 16, 2013||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (5/10/95-8/11/06, 3 executions)||None||In October 2015, judge found the 2013 protocol violated state law. No updated protocol; litigation ongoing.||Mont. Code Ann. § 46-19-103 states, in part: "The identity of the executioner must remain anonymous. Facts pertaining to the selection and training of the executioner must remain confidential."|
|Nebraska||2016 (Not sure if effective yet)||No lethal injection executions.||None||Neb. Rev. St. § 83-967 states, in part: "(2) The identity of all members of the execution team, and any information reasonably calculated to lead to the identity of such members, shall be confidential and exempt from disclosure pursuant to sections 84-712 to 84-712.09 and shall not be subject to discovery or introduction as evidence in any civil proceeding unless extraordinary good cause is shown and a protective order is issued by a district court limiting dissemination of such information."|
|Nevada||No current protocol in place||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (12/6/85-4/26/06, 11 executions)||None||
|New Hampshire||No executions carried out.||None||
|New Mexico||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (11/6/01, 1 execution)||None||
|North Carolina||Eff. Oct. 24, 2013||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (3/16/84-8/18/06, 41 executions)||None||Litigation ongoing||N.C. Gen Stat. Ann. § 132-1.2 states, in part: "Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed to require or authorize a public agency or its subdivision to disclose any information that: . . . (7) Reveals name, address, qualifications, and other identifying information of any person or entity that manufactures, compounds, prepares, prescribes, dispenses, supplies, or administers the drugs or supplies obtained for any purpose authorized by Article 19 of Chapter 15 of the General Statutes."|
|Ohio||Eff. Oct. 7, 2016||2-drug, midazolam and hydromorphone (1/16/14, 1 execution)||
1-drug pentobarbital (3/10/11-9/25/13, 10 executions)
1-drug sodium thiopental (12/8/09-2/17/11, 10 executions)
3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (2/19/99-8/18/09, 32 executions)
|Litigation ongoing||Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2949.221 states, in part: "(B) If, at any time prior to the day that is twenty-four months after the effective date of this section, a person manufactures, compounds, imports, transports, distributes, supplies, prescribes, prepares, administers, uses, or tests any of the compounding equipment or components, the active pharmaceutical ingredients, the drugs or combination of drugs, the medical supplies, or the medical equipment used in the application of a lethal injection of a drug or combination of drugs in the administration of a death sentence by lethal injection as provided for in division (A) of section 2949.22 of the Revised Code, notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, all of the following apply regarding any information or record in the possession of any public office that identifies or reasonably leads to the identification of the person and the person's participation in any activity described in this division: (1) The information or record shall be classified as confidential, is privileged under law, and is not subject to disclosure by any person, state agency, governmental entity, board, or commission or any political subdivision as a public record under section 149.43 of the Revised Code or otherwise."|
|Oklahoma||No current protocol in place||3-drug: midazolam, pancurionium bromide, potassium acetate (1/15/15, 1 execution)||
3-drug, beginning with midazolam (4/29/14, 1 execution)
3-drug, beginning with pentobarbital (12/16/10-1/23/14, 16 executions)
3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (9/10/90-10/14/10, 93 executions)
|Executions placed on hold per court order during pending lethal injection litigation.||Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 22, §1015 states: "(B) . . . . The identity of all persons who participate in or administer the execution process and persons who supply the drugs, medical supplies or medical equipment for the execution shall be confidential and shall not be subject to discovery in any civil or criminal proceedings. The purchase of drugs, medical supplies or medical equipment necessary to carry out the execution shall not be subject to the provisions of the Oklahoma Central Purchasing Act."|
|Oregon||Eff. March 2017||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (9/6/96-5/16/97, 2 executions)||None||Governor-imposed moratorium||
"(3) Selection of Executioner(s): The selection of the executioner(s) will be the responsibility of the Superintendent. The identity of the executioner(s) will remain confidential." Oregon Admin. Rule 291-024-0016
|Pennsylvania||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (5/2/95-7/6/99, 3 executions)||None||Governor-imposed moratorium||
|South Carolina||Not publicly available||3-drug, beginning with pentobarbital (5/6/11, 1 execution)||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (8/18/95-5/8/09, 35 executions)||S.C. Code §24-3-580 states, in part: "A person may not knowingly disclose the identity of a current or former member of an execution team or disclose a record that would identify a person as being a current or former member of an execution team."|
|South Dakota||Eff. Oct. 15, 2015||1-drug pentobarbital (10/15/12-10/30/12, 2 executions)||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (7/11/07, 1 execution)||S.D. Codified Law §23A-27A-31.2 states, in part: "The name, address, qualifications, and other identifying information relating to the identity of any person or entity supplying or administering the intravenous injection substance or substances under chapter 23A-27A are confidential. Disclosure of the foregoing information may not be authorized or ordered."|
|Tennessee||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (4/19/00-12/2/09, 5 executions)||None||Ongoing litigation; Tennessee Supreme Court upheld constitutionality of protocol||Tenn. Code Ann. §10-7-504 states, in part: "(h)(1) Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, those parts of the record identifying an individual or entity as a person or entity who or that has been or may in the future be directly involved in the process of executing a sentence of death shall be treated as confidential and shall not be open to public inspection. For the purposes of this section “person or entity” includes, but is not limited to, an employee of the state who has training related to direct involvement in the process of executing a sentence of death, a contractor or employee of a contractor, a volunteer who has direct involvement in the process of executing a sentence of death, or a person or entity involved in the procurement or provision of chemicals, equipment, supplies and other items for use in carrying out a sentence of death."|
|Texas||Eff. July 2012||1-drug pentobarbital (7/18/12-3/14/17, 60 executions)||
3-drug, beginning with pentobarbital (5/3/11-4/26/12, 16 executions)
3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (12/7/82-2/22/11, 466 executions)
|Tex. Crim. Proc. Code Ann. art. 43.14 states, in part: "(b) The name, address, and other identifying information of the following is confidential and excepted from disclosure under Section 552.021, Government Code:
(1) any person who participates in an execution procedure described by Subsection (a), including a person who uses, supplies, or administers a substance during the execution; and
(2) any person or entity that manufactures, transports, tests, procures, compounds, prescribes, dispenses, or provides a substance or supplies used in an execution."
|Utah||Not publicly available||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (8/28/87-10/15/99, 4 executions)||None||There is no statute that requires secrecy, but it is the position of the Department generally that the lethal-injection protocol is confidential and outside the purview of a public records request.|
|Virginia||Eff. Feb. 7, 2017||3-drug, beginning with midazolam (1/18/17, 1 execution)||
3-drug, beginning with pentobarbital (8/18/11-10/1/15, 2 executions)
3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (1/24/95-9/23/10, 78 executions)
|Va. Code. §53.1-234 states, in part: "The identities of any pharmacy or outsourcing facility that enters into a contract with the Department for the compounding of drugs necessary to carry out an execution by lethal injection, any officer or employee of such pharmacy or outsourcing facility, and any person or entity used by such pharmacy or outsourcing facility to obtain equipment or substances to facilitate the compounding of such drugs and any information reasonably calculated to lead to the identities of such persons or entities, including their names, residential and office addresses, residential and office telephone numbers, social security numbers, and tax identification numbers, shall be confidential, shall be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (§ 2.2-3700 et seq.), and shall not be subject to discovery or introduction as evidence in any civil proceeding unless good cause is shown."|
|1-drug sodium thiopental (9/10/10, 1 execution)||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (10/13/98-8/28/01, 2 executions)||Governor-imposed moratorium||
|Wyoming||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (1/22/92, 1 execution)||None||
|U.S. Government||No current protocol in place||3-drug, beginning with sodium thiopental (6/11/01-3/18/03, 3 executions)||None||
|U.S. Military||Eff. Jan. 2007||No executions carried out||None||
- California: May 15, 2007 proposed protocol
- Delaware: Aug. 31, 2007 protocol
- Florida: Sept. 9, 2013 protocol; May 9, 2007 protocol
- Georgia: June 7, 2007 protocol
- Louisiana: June 17, 2013 protocol
- Oklahoma: Sept. 30, 2014 protocol
- Ohio: June 29, 2015 protocol; Sept. 18, 2011 protocol; Nov. 30, 2009 protocol
- Kentucky's execution protocol, issued in three parts: pre-execution procedures, protocol for medical and psychological evaluations prior to an execution, and change to one-drug protocol, allowing for use of either sodium thiopental or pentobarbital (July 20, 2012, public hearing to be held September 25, 2012)
- Missouri: May 15, 2012 protocol
- Montana: Jan. 16, 2013 protocol
- Tennessee: Apr. 30, 2007 protocol
- U.S. Military: Jan. 2007 protocol