Arizona tried to illegally import a lethal injection drug, but federal agents stopped the shipment at the Phoenix airport, according to documents obtained by the AP. Arizona paid nearly $27,000 for sodium thiopental, an anesthetic that has been used to carry out executions but is no longer manufactured by FDA-approved companies, the documents said. When the drugs arrived via British Airways at the Phoenix International Airport in July, they were seized by federal officials and have not been released, according to the documents. "The department is contesting FDA's legal authority to continue to withhold the state's execution chemicals," a state corrections department spokesperson says.
Arizona and other death penalty states have been struggling to obtain execution chemicals for several years after European companies refused to sell the drugs, including sodium thiopental. States have had to change drug combinations or, in some cases, put executions on hold while they look for other options. The documents don't reveal what country or company Arizona tried to import the drugs from. Both Nebraska and Ohio have also tried to obtain lethal-injection drugs from overseas. Executions have been put on hold in Arizona following the drawn-out death of Joseph Rudolph Wood in 2014. The state has said it doesn't plan on seeking death warrants for inmates until it resolves a lawsuit originally filed by Wood and others seeking information about the drugs used in executions. (Read more lethal injection stories.)