Georgia postpones 2 executions due to issues with drug - CBS46 News

Georgia postpones 2 executions due to issues with drug

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ATLANTA (CBS46) - The execution of Kelly Gissendaner is on hold indefinitely after concerns about the lethal drug being used.

The execution, which was scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday evening, was delayed after corrections officials said the drug appeared cloudy. According to the Department of Corrections, the drug was sent to an independent lab to test its potency on Monday. The drug fell within the testing limits, however, during a final check, the execution team discovered the cloudy appearance of the drug.

The Department of Corrections consulted with a pharmacist and Gissendaner's execution was postponed out of caution.

CBS46 anchor Scott Light was set to witness Gissendaner's execution Monday night when it was postponed.

"I was in a news black hole," Light said. "It was me and two other witnesses." Light said he was given one notepad and two No. 2 pencils. "That four hours in that room was very, very strange," Light added.

CBS46 found out Tuesday afternoon that Gissendaner's attorneys received several calls regarding problems with the execution.

The first call came at 10:25 p.m. Monday night to say the execution would be postponed.

A second call was made five minutes later when the state admitted they didn't know which lethal drugs were examined. It could have been drugs from Monday's planned execution or drugs from a postponed attempt the previous week.

Because of the uncertainty, Gissendaner's attorneys wanted the whole thing stopped, filing a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court. That petition was pulled late Tuesday afternoon since the state stopped the execution.

Gissendaner's legal team still wants U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to look at the state's lethal injection process.

The drug in question is called pentobarbital, which is a lethal dose of anesthetic that Georgia has used since 2013 to carry out executions. The spotlight was on pentobarbital in 2014 when Georgia executed Marcus Wellons. There were no issues with his execution, but it was the first execution after a botched attempt using the drug in Oklahoma.

When researching lethal drugs, the information dries up in Georgia and other states. Georgia law keeps you from ever knowing the source of deadly drugs, or companies involved in making the drugs, in order to protect the companies and their employees.

Before Georgia switched to using just pentobarbital, the state used a three-drug cocktail for capital punishment. That process came under fire in 2011 when the Southern Center for Human Rights alleged that sodium thiopental, one of the drugs in the cocktail, was brought to the U.S. from overseas through a black market by Dr. Carlo Musso of CorrectHealth.

“He brought controlled substances into the country and proceeded to sell them across state lines without a license,” said Jessica Oates, an attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights.

The DEA then seized stockpiles of the drug in 2013 in Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. That prompted the switch to using just pentobarbital.

Questions about the cloudy drug spilled over to another Georgia execution. The execution of Keith Terrell, scheduled for March 10, will also be postponed.

Copyright 2015 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this story.