Lawyers accuse state of intending to get lethal injection drugs illegally, raise specter of cruel execution
A Clark County District Court judge delayed the scheduled execution of 46-year-old Scott Dozier for another month, and she scheduled future hearings to determine whether or not state officials have the capacity to carry out Nevada’s first execution in more than a decade.
In a Thursday morning hearing, District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti approved two orders delaying Dozier’s execution until the week of Nov. 13, and set another hearing with officials from the Nevada Attorney General’s Office for next week to obtain more information on how the state plans to procure the necessary lethal drugs in time for the planned execution.
Attorneys for Dozier said they were merely seeking “transparency” in the process before committing their client — who has repeatedly refused chances to appeal his death sentence and requested to die — to an execution date. Togliatti at several points checked with Dozier to make sure that he was on board with the requests of his attorneys, as a more drawn out hearing into whether or not the state could legally obtain the drugs could potentially lead her to withdraw the execution warrant over concerns that it could constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
Dozier said he was fine with the course of action proposed by his attorneys, and said he wanted to proceed with the execution regardless of any issues with obtaining the drugs.
“I went into this recognizing I wouldn’t know those things,” he said. “Listen, if they tell me there’s a good chance it’s going to be a real miserable experience for you for those two hours before you expire, I’m still going to do it.”
Togliatti set another hearing for next Thursday designed to obtain more information from the attorney general’s office on how it plans to obtain the drugs.
Lawyers for a Nevada prisoner who’s volunteered to be executed are challenging the state in court for not disclosing more details about how they plan to put him to death, saying the lack of vetting could mean the state’s first execution in more than a decade is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual.
In a motion filed late Tuesday, federal public defenders who are representing Scott Raymond Dozier fault the Nevada Department of Corrections for failing to answer “basic questions about what drugs it intends to use in the execution and what execution protocol is in place to effectuate the death sentence.” That violates the department’s own policy of responding to public records requests within five days, according to the filing.
They’re asking for a court to allow expedited discovery on the matter and issue a ruling on whether the execution will proceed lawfully. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday morning in Las Vegas, during which they expect the judge might push back the execution date into mid-November.
With Nevada’s execution drugs expired, and numerous pharmaceutical companies refusing to furnish replacements, Dozier’s lawyers question whether the state can actually obtain the drugs through its standard purchasing process and say the state hasn’t revealed an up-to-date execution protocol. State prisons director James Dzurenda has previously expressed confidence that the state can carry out the execution and earlier this spring suggested Nevada could obtain the drugs from another state, but has not offered further details since then.
“The State’s conduct in this case demonstrates that it intends to obtain lethal injection drugs outside of the lawful channels under state and federal law for doing so,” the motion argues. “If the State has to violate applicable state and federal laws to obtain lethal injection drugs then there is a substantial and unjustified risk that Mr. Dozier will suffer a prolonged and torturous execution. If the State obtains the drugs outside of the legal framework for doing so, there is a substantial risk of adulteration or misbranding of the drugs.”
A corrections spokeswoman reached by The Nevada Independent on Tuesday didn’t have details about the drugs, and she didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. Neither did a spokeswoman for Attorney General Adam Laxalt.
Dozier’s lawyers ask whether the state, unable to obtain an anesthetic drug to administer ahead of the execution, will use a two-drug cocktail that would botch the process.
“If NDOC’s two-drug cocktail does not work, this Court faces the prospect of being contacted the evening of the execution to find out that Mr. Dozier cannot be anesthetized, and that he is alive and suffocating on a gurney with IV lines inserted into his body via invasive surgical cut downs, with an obsolete execution protocol instructing the Director’s execution team that they cannot stop,” the motion argues. “This gruesome spectacle is fundamentally unfair to Mr. Dozier, the Director, and his execution team.”
Dozier’s execution is scheduled for the week of Oct. 16 at the state’s new execution chamber at Ely State Prison. Dozier, 46, has voluntarily given up opportunities to appeal his decade-old death sentence and has repeatedly requested to die.
He was convicted in 2007 of robbing and killing a 22-year-old man at a Las Vegas hotel before dismembering the body. He was also convicted of another homicide in Arizona.
Although the state has about 80 people on death row, most die in prison, and a volunteer is rare. Nevada hasn’t had an execution since 2006, and has only carried out 12 executions since 1977.
The state is required by law to use a lethal injection, but a drug needed to create the lethal injection cocktail has expired. Nevada found none of the 247 vendors it contacted last year were willing to replace it.
Nationwide, difficulties with the drug supply have prompted states to take drastic, controversial measures with the death penalty. Officials in Arkansas scheduled eight executions in 11 days this spring in a race against the expiration dates of their lethal injection drugs, although only four were carried out.