Death Penalty: Missouri to Use Propofol, Which Killed Michael Jackson, As Some Raise Concerns

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Joseph Franklin.
Joseph Franklin.

With execution dates now set for two men on death row in Missouri, the state is on track to be the first to use the drug propofol for the administering of the death penalty. Propofol, a sedative thrust into the spotlight with the death of Michael Jackson, is unchartered territory when it comes to capital punishment and some critics are now raising concerns about whether the drug has been properly vetted and is an appropriate execution method.

"Missouri is about to use a new drug that no other state has used, that has never been used in executions," Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, tells Daily RFT, adding, "You never want to experiment with humans."

One of the subjects of this so-called "experiment" will be Joseph Franklin, a convicted serial killer and white supremacist who famously shot Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, allegedly because he was enraged about the appearance of an interracial couple in the magazine.

See also: - Joseph Franklin, Serial Killer Who Shot Larry Flynt, Gets Execution Date in Missouri - Attorney General Wants Execution Dates For Two Men On Death Row - Chris Koster Says Gas Chamber May Be Only Option Due To Legal Battles

As we reported last week, the Missouri Supreme Court has granted the state's motion to set execution dates for two men who have exhausted appeals of their death sentences. Attorney General Chris Koster, who has been pushing for these executions for several years, announced that Franklin will be executed on November 20, 2013, and Allen Nicklasson, another convicted killer on death row, will be executed on October 23, 2013.

Koster renewed the call for these dates earlier this summer, arguing that the courts cannot keep delaying due to pending federal litigation -- and noting that the state's limited supply of propofol is set to expire. Further delays, he threatened, could force Missouri to resort to the decades-old method of the gas chamber.

The court's latest action has prompted advocates critical of the death penalty to newly scrutinize the drug Missouri could likely use within just two months.

"Some explanation would be helpful for the public and certainly for the defendants who are about to be executed," says Dieter, who heads the nonprofit death penalty group that raises awareness and tracks capital punishment across the country.

The group, he says, wants to know "whether it's all going to be humane and proper...or whether they are just going ahead because they don't want these drugs to expire..."

click to enlarge Allen Nicklasson. - v
Allen Nicklasson.

"Has this been well-vetted?" he continues. "Who have they consulted with that are experts?... What are the adverse reactions? What kind of people are allergic to this? How long would it take? What would be the dosage? What might be the experience?"

Missouri, he argues, is saying, "'We've picked it. Trust us.'"

Propofol got national attention in the aftermath of Michael Jackson's death, a result of an apparently lethal dose of the drug provided by his doctor. According to an ABC News report, propofol is typically administered to patients undergoing surgery or another medical procedure and is a fast-acting drug that makes patients unconscious within seconds. It's very potent and sometimes referred to as the "milk of amnesia."

Incidentally, just this past week, Jackson's ex-wife testified that he twice used propofol as a sleep aid in the 1990s.

Continue for more about the debate in Missouri, including response from the attorney general's office.

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