In 2011, Arizona began using pentobarbital for executions, but the drug is becoming more difficult to obtain, and the state is now switching to using a combination of two different ones.
Issues came after the name of the some of the drug producers was revealed in other states, according to Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.
“You know some of the people against the death penalty have been putting pressure on the suppliers not to supply these chemicals and I think that is a mistake," he said.
That lead Arizona to add a two-drug cocktail, midazolam and hydromorphone, as a back up. It was reported that the two drugs were used for an execution in Ohio earlier this year. It took the inmate more than 20 minutes to die, and some accounts said he was gasping for air.
Horne said the two drugs are currently used as anesthetics.
“They are used for pain relief and to put people to sleep, and in sufficient quantity they put you into a deep sleep and then you expire," he said.
Arizona’s decision to change the drug protocol came the same day an Oklahoma county judge found the state's execution law was unconstitutional. He said Oklahoma’s prohibition on the identification of who is supplying the drugs is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Due Process clause.
The ACLU of Arizona is suing to overturn a similar provision in the state law. Dan Pochoda, the group’s legal director, said people have the right to know where the drugs are coming from.
“The Arizona law we feel does not in fact and should not be interpreted to cover the entities involved as suppliers," he said. "It is clear by the law that it covers the people involved in executing someone. The people actually carry it out and people who prepare the scene.”
The cases in Arizona and Oklahoma may be a hint of things to come in the future.
“I think we will see more rulings because states doing things in secret are always suspect,” according to Richard Dieter with the Death Penalty Information Center.
Arizona has changed the drug it uses for executions before.
In 2011, an investigation by The Arizona Republic revealed the state was importing its execution drug from England. Federal courts at the time ruled that drug was being illegally imported.