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Nevada Supreme Court schedules arguments over Scott Dozier execution

FILE: Scott Dozier appears Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas. (KSNV)

The Nevada Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments Thursday on the stalled execution of a death-row inmate whose lethal injection is being challenged by pharmaceutical companies that don’t want their drugs used.

Three justices added drug company Sandoz Inc. as a “friend of the court” participant ahead of the Sept. 12 hearing in Las Vegas and lifted a temporary hold on legal proceedings in state court about the twice-postponed execution of Scott Raymond Dozier.

It was not immediately clear if lower court hearings would be scheduled before the Supreme Court hearing involving drug firms Alvogen, Hikma Pharmaceuticals and Sandoz and attorneys for the state.

Attorney Colby Williams, representing Sandoz, said he wanted to talk with his client before commenting.

Alvogen makes the sedative midazolam. Hikma is a producer of the powerful opioid fentanyl, which is blamed for illegal-use drug overdose deaths nationwide. Sandoz makes the muscle paralytic cisatracurium.

Nevada wants to use those three drugs, but the companies accuse the state of improperly obtaining their products for a use that the companies don’t allow.

State attorneys counter that Nevada prison officials lawfully obtained the drugs from a third-party supplier. The state characterizes the companies’ claims as “sellers’ remorse.”

The state Supreme Court order came a day after prison officials filed documents saying that witnesses reported no complications during an execution in Nebraska on Tuesday of Carey Dean Moore. . That execution used — for the first time in any state — some of the same drugs that Nevada wants to use.

Nebraska officials also administered a heart-stopping drug, potassium chloride, which is not part of Nevada’s planned three-drug protocol.

Media witnesses “reported no complications, only some coughing before Moore stopped moving,” Nevada state attorneys said in a Wednesday court filing. Moore had been sentenced to death for killing two cab drivers in Omaha in 1979.

Robert Dunham at the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., called it too soon to know if Moore’s execution in Nebraska was trouble-free.

“Witnesses did not see the death itself,” Dunham said, noting that the 60-year-old Moore was pronounced dead several minutes after a death chamber blind was lowered.

“I think we have to wait to see what the autopsy results show,” Dunham said.

Media witnesses including The Associated Press saw Moore take short, gasping breaths that became deeper and more labored. He gradually turned red and then purple as the drugs were administered, and his chest heaved several times before it went still. His eyelids briefly cracked open.

Dozier, 47, is not challenging his convictions or sentences for drug-related killings in Phoenix and Las Vegas in 2002. He said he wants to die and doesn’t care if it’s painful.

Nevada state law requires executions to be by lethal injection. Dozier’s execution was called off in November and July amid legal arguments over the drugs the state decided to use after having trouble obtaining them for the state’s first execution in 12 years.

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Associated Press writer Grant Schulte in Lincoln, Neb., contributed to this report.

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