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Arizona's Ability To Execute Prisoners Unclear

injection table
Arizona Department of Corrections
Arizona began executing death-row inmates by lethal injection in 1993.

A federal judge said weeks ago that he’d rule quickly on whether to dismiss a lawsuit against Arizona’s death penalty.

But with a decision yet to be filed, and a looming expiration date for a supply of the lethal injection drug, midazolam, Arizona’s ability to carry out an execution is unclear. 

Arizona law says the Department of Corrections must get a death warrant before it can execute someone. Once it has the warrant, DOC has to wait 35 days before sending a prisoner to the death chamber.

Attorneys for the state have said a supply of midazolam will expire in May. If the judge throws out the lawsuit this week, there may not be enough time for DOC to use the drug.

DOC officials did not respond to a request for comment. It is unknown if DOC has drugs with a later expiration date.

EDITOR'S NOTE: KJZZ is a member of the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, which is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.