On Monday, October 25, 2010 a federal judge in Arizona issued a temporary restraining order to delay an execution because of questions surrounding the origin of one of the drugs - sodium thiopental - that Arizona (and other states) administers during the execution. The Supreme Court issued an order on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 vacating the lower court's order.
Death penalty cases rarely (never?) raise customs issues, but this one might. In its order, the Supreme Court noted:
There was no showing that the drug was unlawfully obtained, nor was there an offer of proof to that effect.
Hmmm. Section 801 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act generally prohibits the importation of non-FDA approved prescription drugs. Sodium thiopental is a "controlled substance" aka prescription drug. The lower court found that the drug in question was "non-FDA approved."
So the obvious questions are who imported the drug, how was it declared, and is there some general exception for prescription drugs imported for (by?) states for use in executions? I'm not aware of any such exception but I suppose there could be one. Seems to me that the public policy justifications (e.g. concerns about safety and efficacy) for prohibiting the importation of non-FDA approved drugs should apply whether the drugs are taken voluntarily by senior citizens or administered (involuntarily) to death row inmates.