Speed Reads

Not So Fast

Oklahoma postponed two executions because it ran out of lethal injection drugs

Getty Images

An Oklahoma court on Tuesday postponed the scheduled executions of two inmates due to a shortage of lethal injection drugs. The decision came one day after the state said it could not find two of the drugs needed to carry out executions.

Oklahoma is hardly alone in its inability to find an adequate supply of death row drugs. As we noted last month, the sole U.S. manufacturer of the common execution drug sodium thiopental stopped producing the compound in 2011, and increased regulation of other would-be European producers has kept foreign supplies from taking its place.

As a result, Missouri last month delayed an execution due to a drug shortage. And Ohio controversially executed a man in January with an untested drug cocktail that resulted in a 25-minute death "accompanied by movement and gasping, snorting and choking sounds," as The New York Times put it. That execution drew condemnation from human rights groups and international observers, which may explain why other states aren't racing to test out new execution methods themselves.