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Kentucky, Tennessee Give Justice Dept. Execution Drugs

Kentucky and Tennessee have reportedly become the second and third states to turn over their supplies of an increasingly rare lethal-injection drug to the Justice Department.

The drug, sodium thiopental, is one of three drugs that most states that enforce capital punishment use in their lethal injections. But when a company in Illinois stopped making the strong sedative, supplies ran short — and federal officials believe some states may have gone outside the law to acquire it.

The shortage has forced many states to put executions on hold; some are switching to a new drug, pentobarbital.

In a report for Newscast, Kathy Lohr says the events in Kentucky may be linked to an earlier investigation of sodium thiopental in Georgia:

In March, the DEA seized Georgia's supply after lawyers raised questions about whether officials broke the law when they imported it from England.

Now Kentucky officials — who bought some of Georgia's drugs — say they've handed over their supply to federal officials.

Spokeswoman for the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Jennifer Brislin says state officials are cooperating with the DEA and that the drug is being used as evidence in another jurisdiction. She would not say where.

The AP says it has obtained records related to how states are acquiring sodium thiopental. Citing those documents, the AP says that "Tennessee officials purchased the drug from an overseas supplier last year. Kentucky bought 18 grams of sodium thiopental in February from a Georgia company at a cost of $1,616.83."

The news agency says it has reviewed records showing that at least four other states — Arizona, Arkansas, California, and Nebraska — have also followed Georgia's example and obtained the drug overseas.

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