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Out of Appeals, Indiana Inmate Still on Death Row Due to Shortage of Lethal Drugs

State is trying to find suppliers willing to sell chemicals used for executions

(INDIANAPOLIS) - What would be Indiana's first execution in eight years can't be scheduled until the state gets a fresh supply of lethal injection drugs.

Joseph Corcoran ran out of appeals 15 months ago for the shotgun murders of his brother and three other people in 1997. But Attorney General Curtis Hill's office, which must formally request an execution date before a death sentence is carried out, says the state doesn't have the needed chemicals.

Indiana's last execution was eight years ago. Since then, several companies have said they'll no longer sell drugs for use in executions. The Department of 
Correction says the drugs have a shelf life of four years or so, and aren't always new when they're purchased. Legislators tucked a provision into this year's budget bill allowing the state to buy the chemicals without disclosing the supplier's identity, but the state still hasn't found any.

Indiana is one of 17 states where lethal injection is the only legally approved method. Senate Corrections and Criminal Code Chairman Mike Young (R-Indianapolis) says if need be, legislatures could look at reauthorizing the electric chair, which was used for executions through 1994, or some other method. But he says the department hasn't voiced any concerns to him.

A second roadblock sprang up in June, when the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in another Death Row inmate's case that a new three-drug protocol adopted in 2014 can't be used because the department didn't conduct public hearings first. The Indiana Supreme Court is considering that case.

Corcoran is the only one of nine Indiana Death Row inmates who's exhausted his appeals. Two more inmates' death sentences were overturned on appeal, but prosecutors are retrying one of those cases, and may seek to have the other sentence reinstated as well.

19 executions have been carried out in seven states this year, with a 20th scheduled for Thursday evening in Texas.

(Photo: Brian A. Jackson/Thinkstock)

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