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Drug Expiration Dates

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Willie Trottie is scheduled for execution in Texas today for killing his wife and her brother. David Ingram reports for KTRK:

"I shot my brother-in-law in self-defense and I shot my wife by accident," he told The Associated Press in a recent interview. "There's no doubt I committed this crime. The dispute is the sequence of how it happened."
Actually, not too much of a dispute.  That "accidental" shooting involved 11 bullets.  The gun was a semiautomatic, not a full automatic, so that requires pulling the trigger "accidentally" 11 times.  And there were multiple witnesses.  Trottie told his wife as he was killing her, "Bitch, I told you I was going to kill you."

So when you are stone cold guilty of a crime for which the death penalty is clearly appropriate, what do your lawyers argue about at the last minute?  Drug expiration dates.  Really.
Michael Kuskay and Molly Hennessy-Fiske report for the LA Times:

Lawyers for Willie Trottie filed the appeal [in the Supreme Court] Wednesday, the latest step in the legal effort to halt the execution. They contend the drug, pentobarbital, has expired, which could mean that Trottie might suffer during the execution by lethal injection.
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"If the execution is carried out, Trottie will be executed using 5 grams of pentobarbital. The drugs have been tested for potency and defect," Jason Clark, the director of public information for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said in an email. "The drugs have a potency of 108% and were found to have no defects. The pentobarbital is not expired and has a use by date of September 2014. The industry standard is when an expiration is stated only in the month and year, the expiration date is the last day of the month."

Here is what Johns Hopkins has to say about expiration dates:

Think of expiration dates -- which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires be placed on most prescription and over-the-counter medications -- as a very conservative guide to longevity. The expiration date is a guarantee from the manufacturer that a medication will remain chemically stable--and thus maintain its full potency and safety -- prior to that date. Most medications, though, retain their potency well beyond the expiration date, and outdated medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter, are not usually harmful.

If your medications have been stored under good conditions, they should retain all or much of their potency for at least one to two years following their expiration date, even after the container is opened. But you should discard any pills that have become discolored, turned powdery, or smell strong; any liquids that appear cloudy or filmy; or any tubes of cream that are hardened or cracked.

But Texas has done much more than the visual and olfactory inspection Johns Hopkins advises.  They actually had the drug tested.  Given such a test, the "very conservative guide" of the expiration date becomes irrelevant.  The hard fact of an actual laboratory analysis easily trumps the guess of an expiration date.

An actual lab test is more than sufficient to refute any claims arising from either the source or the age of a drug.  If it is pure and potent, it simply does not matter when or where it came from.

Here is a description of the crime from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in Trottie v. Stephens, 720 F.3d 231, 237-238 (2013) :

Trottie and Barbara Canada met and began dating in about 1989. Shortly thereafter, the two moved in together and had a child. In September 1992, the couple separated and Barbara moved in with her family.

Trottie's behavior towards Barbara became increasingly violent following their 1992 separation. According to state witnesses that testified at Trottie's trial, Trottie warned Barbara that he would kill her if she did not return to him and repeated the threat several times in the months after she moved out. Barbara's close friend testified that Trottie called Barbara "constantly" at home and at work, begging her to come back to him. Trottie hit Barbara, bumped Barbara's car with his own while it was traveling at sixty to sixty-five miles per hour, and once kidnaped her, releasing her only after she promised to reunite with him.

Barbara obtained a protective order against Trottie in March 1993. Nevertheless, state witnesses testified that Trottie telephoned Barbara in April and told her that she had until May 1, 1993 to return to him, or else he would kill her. On May 3, 1993, Trottie called Barbara again and told her that "he wasn't going to wait around anymore" and again threatened to kill her. One witness testified that Trottie also threatened Barbara's brother Titus Canada because, according to Trottie, he had gotten "in the way."

Trottie arrived at the Canada residence at approximately 11:00 p.m. on the night of May 3, 1993, armed with a semiautomatic 9mm pistol.1 At the time, there were five children under the age of seven in the house, along with numerous other family members. According to state witnesses, Trottie opened fire immediately, wounding Barbara's mother, sister, and brother. Barbara's brother returned fire with a .380 caliber pistol and shot Trottie numerous times. Though wounded, Trottie cornered Barbara in a bedroom and, while she lay on the ground, shot her eleven times, saying "Bitch, I told you I was going to kill you." Trottie then returned to the area where Barbara's brother was lying wounded and, in the view of at least two small children, fired two shots into the back of Barbara's brother's head, killing him. Trottie left the Canada home and was arrested a short time later in the emergency room of a nearby hospital.
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1.  Trottie had visited Barbara's house earlier that day, armed with a shotgun. Barbara's brother Titus confronted Trottie with a .380 pistol, at which point Trottie departed. Before he returned at 11:00 p.m., Trottie called Barbara's home and said that he "wanted" Barbara and her brother.

Update:  U.S. Supreme Court denial orders are here and here. Unlike yesterday's Missouri orders, there are no indications of dissents.

Michael Graczyk of AP reports the execution was carried out in a 7:41 EDT update.

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