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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska officials are looking for ways to recover the $54,400 that was spent on foreign-made lethal injection drugs which haven't been delivered, but a spokesman for Gov. Pete Ricketts said Friday that it's not clear whether they'll succeed.
Ricketts spokesman Taylor Gage said the governor has directed Nebraska's corrections department to review its purchase agreement with Harris Pharma, a one-man company based in India.
Ricketts announced last week that the state would stop trying to obtain the drugs until after a statewide vote on capital punishment next November. State officials have struggled to import them because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said they can't do so legally.
"It is unclear what recourse the state has, if any, to recover the funds at this time," Gage said.
Lawmakers abolished capital punishment in May over Ricketts' veto, but a statewide petition drive partially financed by the governor gathered enough signatures to suspend that decision and put the issue on the ballot.
Chris Harris, who runs Harris Pharma, sold drugs to the state in 2010, but the manufacturer later accused him of misrepresenting how he intended to use them. Legal challenges prevented the state from using that batch before it expired. Harris did not immediately respond to an email Friday morning.
An attempt to ship the newest batch of drugs in August via FedEx was thwarted because the transport company said it lacked necessary paperwork for international shipping.
Nebraska prison officials also tried but failed in October to buy one of the required drugs, pancuronium bromide, from a Mississippi-based pharmaceutical company. The order was canceled a day later, after the company said the product wasn't available.
Dawn-Renee Smith, a Nebraska Department of Correctional Services spokeswoman, said the agency planned to review its purchase agreement for the drugs at Ricketts' request.
Nebraska hasn't executed an inmate since 1997, when it used the electric chair, and has never carried one out with lethal injection drugs. The state lacks two of the three drugs required in its execution protocol. Nebraska currently has 10 men on death row.
Some lawmakers said they doubt the state will get its money back.
"When you do business with people who don't have good reputations, you shouldn't expect to be refunded," Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha said Friday.
Krist, who voted to repeal the death penalty, said he was pleased Ricketts decided not to pursue the execution drugs until after the election.
Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee, said during a hearing last month that he was concerned state officials were able to send a check to Harris without having a way to recoup the money. Mello, who supported the death penalty repeal, said he was looking into the state's policies to try to prevent similar losses in the future.
Ricketts has said his administration is also working with Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson and correctional services director Scott Frakes to look at changing the state's lethal injection protocol.
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