MONTGOMERY, Ala. - It will be next spring before the state can resume executing death row inmates, an Alabama lawmaker said Wednesday.
Republican state Sen. Cam Ward, a top lawmaker on prison issues, says that will be the earliest that lawmakers will be able to pass new legislation allowing Alabama to receive drugs used for executions.
"We're basically out of chemicals," Ward told The Times Daily. "We are on hold until March or April."
Pharmaceutical companies are refusing to sell Alabama more drugs until they can get some type of protection or "immunity," Ward said. Republican Rep. Lynn Greer, who proposed legislation during the last session to keep the names of drug suppliers confidential, has said the companies fear lawsuits and backlash from death penalty opponents.
There are 16 death row inmates who have exhausted appeals and await execution. A spokeswoman for the Alabama Attorney General's office said the department had no comment.
Nationwide, death penalty states have scrambled in recent years to find alternatives to drugs used previously for executions but are now in short supply because of opposition to capital punishment.
Some lawmakers believe legislation that would keep the names of drug suppliers secret would lead them to once again supply chemicals.
Greer's bill was approved in the House, but some senators balked at the idea that the identities of drug companies would not be subject to disclosure in a lawsuit or admissible as evidence. The legislation eventually ran out of time and died.
Ward said that future legislation won't include compete immunity.
"There will be some secrecy for the companies, but it won't be complete secrecy," he said.
"What they want is to keep their name hidden from the general public," Ward said. "I don't believe that anyone should have complete immunity."