MONTGOMERY, Alabama --
Attorneys for a death row inmate scheduled to be executed in less than a month have asked the U.S. attorney general to investigate whether the state of Alabama illegally obtained its supply of a key execution drug.
Attorneys for Jason Oric Williams said Alabama obtained its sodium thiopental from Tennessee, whose supply has been seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration because of concerns it was obtained illegally from overseas. Supplies in Georgia and Kentucky have also been rounded up by the DEA over similar concerns.
Alabama prisons spokesman Brian Corbett declined to comment about the letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder or claims the state obtained sodium thiopental from Tennessee.
Tennessee Department of Corrections spokeswoman Dorinda Carter said that state provided Alabama with a supply of sodium thiopental on March 15 but the transaction was not a sale. "There was no exchange of funds," Carter said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
Attorneys Bryan Stevenson and Angela Setzer of the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative asked Holder to prevent the state from using the drug to kill Williams, who is scheduled to die May 19 for killing four people in Mobile County in 1992 during a shooting spree.
"The unlawful acquisition of such unregulated narcotics increases the likelihood that they are adulterated, counterfeit or otherwise ineffective," the attorneys said in the letter. "As occurred in Tennessee, we ask that all necessary steps be taken to prevent the state from utilizing or possessing what appear to be unlawfully obtained drugs."
The swap of the execution drug between Tennessee and Alabama might be the basis for a last minute appeal to stop Williams' execution, Stevenson said.
A nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental has caused some states to search for new suppliers since the sole U.S. manufacturer suspended production in 2009. Alabama prison officials have previously said that they had enough sodium thiopental for Williams' execution and for Eddie Duval Powell, who is set to die June 16. After that prison officials have said they plan to switch to the drug pentobarbital.
Powell was convicted of the 1995 murder, rape and sodomy of a 70-year-old woman during a burglary at her home in Tuscaloosa County.