Fifth US prisoner set to die with Danish execution drugs today in Ohio

April 12, 2011

Carter, 49, will be killed with a massive dose of pentobarbital, a barbiturate made by Copenhagen-headquartered firm Lundbeck.

Pentobarbital, which in the past has been more commonly used in putting down animals, has seen increasing use on American death rows ever since supplies of anaesthetic sodium thiopental were hit by shortages. Today’s execution – scheduled for 1000 local time – will bring the total number of people killed by American states using Lundbeck-supplied drugs to five since December last year.

Lundbeck management refuses to take any meaningful steps to prevent this unauthorised use of its product, or to assist defence lawyers working to save prisoners from execution. Reprieve has asked Lundbeck to impose straightforward end-user agreements on its customers, which the management has refused to do. Death row defence lawyers have asked Lundbeck to investigate the safety risks of pentobarbital executions, in order to help prove that the new procedure may cause immense pain to prisoners. The company again refused to help.

Today’s execution victim, Clarence Carter, suffers from a low borderline IQ and an ‘organic brain dysfunction’ as a result of damage during his childhood.

Reprieve investigator Maya Foa said:

“How many people have to die using Lundbeck’s drugs before they take any meaningful action to prevent it? With every execution, Lundbeck’s claim that they abhor the use of their drugs in capital punishment rings ever more hollow.”


For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office 020 7427 1099 / 07931592674.

Notes for Editors:

Danish pharmaceutical manufacturer Lundbeck recently voted to continue supplying pentobarbital for lethal injections in the USA. The company’s management refused to put in place straightforward ‘end-user agreements’ to prevent its drug being used to kill human beings, and subsequently refused to conduct a basic investigation into the safety of its product for executions. Four states, including Texas, have now switched to Lundbeck’s pentobarbital; Texas is the busiest executing state in the US, with seven executions already scheduled. Therefore, potentially hundreds more deaths involving Lundbeck drugs can be expected to take place.

49 year-old Clarence Carter suffers from a low borderline IQ and an ‘organic brain dysfunction’ as a result of his upbringing. He is set to be executed for killing inmate Johnny Allen in a ‘jail fight’ in Cincinnati jail in 1988.

In his clemency petition Carter stated that he shouted for assistance during the altercation to no avail. Carter alleges Mr. Allen died during a fight which simply got out of control, not because he intended to kill him. Nevertheless, prosecutors used the testimony to show Carter intended to kill Allen with “prior calculation and design,” which made him eligible for the death penalty. The inmate who testified against Carter later told investigators he didn’t really see who started the fight in 1988, despite testifying earlier that he had seen Carter “sucker punch” Allen.

Carter has not absolved himself of responsibility in the fight. He has admitted to killing Mr Allen and has expressed remorse for his crime and for the pain he has caused Mr Allen’s family.

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 27 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve has represented, and continues to represent, a large number of prisoners who have been rendered and abused around the world, and is conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’