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Indiana seeks to carry out first execution in 15 years after obtaining lethal injection drug

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said the state will resume executions for the first time since 2009, as he seeks the execution of a man convicted for killing four people in 1997.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, announced Wednesday that the state will put a convicted killer to death, which will mark the state’s first execution in 15 years, after acquiring a drug used for lethal injections.

Holcomb said he and state Attorney General Todd Rokita, also a Republican, are seeking to carry out the death penalty for 49-year-old Joseph Corcoran, who was convicted for killing four people in 1997.

Corcoran exhausted his federal appeals in 2016 and has been awaiting execution, according to Holcomb.


“After years of effort, the Indiana Department of Correction has acquired a drug — pentobarbital — which can be used to carry out executions,” the governor said in a statement. “Accordingly, I am fulfilling my duties as governor to follow the law and move forward appropriately in this matter.”

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Rokita filed a motion Wednesday urging the state Supreme Court to set an execution date.

Indiana’s last execution was in 2009, when Matthew Eric Wrinkles was put to death for killing his wife, her brother and her sister-in-law, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The state has eight people on death row, the Death Penalty Information Center said.

The 15-year pause in executions has been attributed to the unavailability of lethal injection drugs, but now the state’s Department of Correction has possession of the sedative pentobarbital, a drug used by multiple states in lethal injections. It is unclear how the state acquired the drug.

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“In Indiana, state law authorizes the death penalty as a means of providing justice for victims of society’s most heinous crimes and holding perpetrators accountable,” Rokita said. “Further, it serves as an effective deterrent for certain potential offenders who might otherwise commit similar extreme crimes of violence.” 

“Now that the Indiana Department of Correction is prepared to carry out the lawfully imposed sentence, it’s incumbent on our justice system to immediately enable executions in our prisons to resume,” Rokita continued.

Attorney Larry Komp, who’s Corcoran’s federal defender, said they will respond to the state’s motion and ask for clarity on the state’s lethal injection protocol.

Some states are looking for new ways to carry out executions since the drugs used in lethal injections, the most common execution method in the U.S., are becoming more difficult to find.

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Earlier this year, Alabama became the first state to use nitrogen gas for an execution when it carried out the death penalty for convicted killer Kenneth Smith. The execution method, which has been criticized for being inhumane and a form of torture, killed Smith after he appeared to shake and writhe on the gurney, sometimes pulling against the restraints before several minutes of heavy breathing until breathing was no longer perceptible.

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Corcoran is being held at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, according to Department of Correction records. He has been on death row since 1999.

He was convicted in the July 1997 killings of his 30-year-old brother, James Corcoran, as well as 30-year-old Douglas A. Stillwell, 32-year-old Robert Scott Turner and 30-year-old Timothy G. Bricker.

In 2020, the first federal execution in 17 years at the time was carried out at a federal prison in Indiana.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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