A new federal complaint comes amid death penalty states scrambling to find drugs to execute inmates.  Current suppliers of the usual and so-far constitutionally approved method of pentobarbital have refused to supply the drug anymore for executions.  This sent many death-penalty states rushing to all sorts of desperate tactics, including passing secrecy laws.  Now, it appears Texas may have possibly stooped lower.

The defendant in the suit is the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and they are given the responsibility of taking lives.  The complaint, filed in October, calls into question the lengths death-penalty states are willing to go.  Texas is among 32 death-penalty states that are struggling to find humane drugs.

“The states are scrambling to find the drugs,” says Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, “They want to carry out these executions that they have scheduled, but they don’t have the drugs and they’re changing and trying new procedures never used before in the history of executions.”

States have been, in addition to passing secrecy laws, trying new drug combinations and going to compounding pharmacies that manufacture drug variations banned by larger pharmaceutical companies.  The suit alleges that corrections employees falsified a prescription of pentobarbital, including using the name “James Jones”, the warden of Huntsville Unit, where executions occur.  The drugs were then, allegedly, sent to Huntsville Unit Hospital, which hasn’t existed since 1983.

The suit says that the pharmacy was unaware of the purpose of the order and immediately canceled it when they became aware.  In a letter obtained by CNN, dated October 4th, Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy, which was requested to provide the drugs says it believed its “information would be kept on the ‘down low'” by the TDCJ.”  The suit also alleges that the state didn’t produce a purchase order, instead using an employee’s credit card to hide the purchase.  The pharmacy is asking the TDCJ to return the drugs.

Maurie Levin, one of the attorneys representing the inmates, said, “We believe that TDCJ’s purchase of compounded pentobarbital from Woodlands Pharmacy violates numerous state laws. The vast majority of compounded drugs can only be mixed or sold pursuant to a doctor’s prescription. TDCJ did not get a prescription for its purchase of compounded drugs…”

In September, Texas turned to Virginia to give it Nembutal, according to documents provided to the media by Jen Moreno, a Berkeley Law attorney.  Many people, including death row inmates, say using the untested drugs is “cruel and unusual punishment” and amounts to experimentation.  Several inmates have filed several lawsuits, in several states, to halt the process, so it can be reviewed.

Last week, Ohio was set to execute Ron Phillips using midazolam and hydromorphone in lethal doses, a combination never before used, but Gov. John Kasich stayed Phillip’s execution after Phillip’s requested to be an organ donor for his ailing mother.  Missouri was set to use the drug that killed Michael Jackson, but the governor halted the process after manufacturers threatened to halt the shipments completely, which would have led to shortages for medical purposes.

Dieter went on to say that it doesn’t matter what crimes the people committed, it “…doesn’t ameliorate our ethical obligations.”


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