Documents Detail California's Search for Death Row Drugs
Undertaking reads like spy fiction
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 9, 2010 4:04 PM CST
In this 2008 file photo, Terry Crenshaw of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary walks past the gurney in the execution chamber at left, in McAlester, Okla.   (AP Photo, File)
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(Newser) – The e-mail from one California prison official to another almost reads like something out of a spy novel: "May have a secret and important mission for you." Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation undersecretary Scott Kernan sent that message to assistant secretary Anthony Chaus on Sept. 29. The "mission" turned out to be a trip to Arizona for a fresh supply of sodium thiopental, the so-called knock-out drug used in the state's three-drug lethal injection.

California's only batch was set to expire and the drug was in short supply—as the state's first execution in five years loomed. In August, Kernan, Chaus and other officials began a desperate worldwide search over two months for the drug, according to nearly 1,000 pages of documents released yesterday. Kernan needed Chaus to send "one of your So Cal guys" to the Arizona State Prison Complex to pick up 12 grams of sodium thiopental. The documents on California's lethal injection drug search were obtained by the ACLU and posted on its Northern California chapter's website.