Texas Can Keep Secret Execution Drug Supplier, Court Rules

A 2008 photo of the room where Texas condemned inmates are given a lethal dose of drugs.

A 2008 photo of the room where Texas condemned inmates are given a lethal dose of drugs. AP Photo

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

The Texas Supreme Court found that disclosing where the state has obtained the drugs "would create a substantial threat of physical harm" to the companies.

Texas can keep secret a supplier of the drugs used to execute prisoners through lethal injections, the state supreme court ruled Friday.

The judges found that “disclosing the source’s identity would create a substantial threat of physical harm to the source’s employees and others, and therefore need not be disclosed.”

Three lawyers who represent death row inmates in 2014 filed a lawsuit asking for the information over concerns about painful or protracted executions, as complaints have come up in other states. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice ended up providing the inmates with the execution protocol and the drugs used, but declined to provide the source of the drugs because of safety concerns.

A state district judge and an appellate court had ruled that the information should be turned over, finding no reason to believe the compounding pharmacy that makes the drugs would be vulnerable to physical harm.

The source of drugs used by states for lethal injections has become an issue in other states, as drug manufacturers have increasingly declined to provide the drugs directly. That means prison systems often have needed to rely on specialty pharmacies. Death row inmates have filed lawsuits to find out exactly what drugs states plan to use.

The lack of available drugs is one of the reasons executions have declined across the country in recent years, the Washington Post noted earlier this year after California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a moratorium on executions in that state. That moratorium, like others that have been imposed in a few other states, was not related to how an execution would take place. Instead, Newsom, a Democrat, said he was concerned about the uneven way the death penalty is handed out by juries, as well as the possibility some people on death row could be innocent.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, criticized Newsom's action to the Post, saying it disregarded the relatives of murder victims who have already gone through years of appeals. “You’ve got to remember that behind every crime is a victim,” he said. 

Like many states, California has not executed an inmate in years. But Texas for years has led the country in executions, as it did again last year, according to the Texas Tribune. Thirteen prisoners were executed in the state in 2018.

The Texas Legislature in 2015 passed a law to keep secret the state’s drug suppliers, along with guarding other information, such as the identity of the person who administers the drugs during executions. But that law doesn’t affect this lawsuit, which meant the lawyers could have found out the name of the 2014 supplier.

In the opinion by Justice Paul Green, the court emphasized that an Oklahoma pharmacy disclosed as providing execution drugs had received a threatening email from a professor alluding to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Green wrote that appellate judges should have given more weight to “direct evidence and expert affidavits regarding significant risks of physical harm faced by lethal injection drug suppliers.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the court made the right decision, adding that concealing the providers of the drugs will protect the companies and their employees. In a statement, Paxton noted that “the voters of Texas have expressed their judgment that the death penalty is necessary, and this decision preserves Texas’ ability to carry out executions mandated by state law.”

But one of the attorneys who sought the information, Maurie Levin, told the Texas Tribune that she was shocked by the ruling, noting that when a news report last year revealed a Houston pharmacy that had made the drugs there was only a peaceful protest held outside the business.

"The Texas Supreme Court’s opinion has no legal or factual integrity," Levin said.

Laura Maggi is the Managing Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
A large urban park creates a "connected" visitor experience with SMART.NODEs™
Sydney NSW, Australia
Community feedback increases 13x in Lancaster, PA with both offline and online engagement methods
Lancaster, PA, USA
Firefighters Use a Thermal Imaging Camera to Make a Lifesaving Grab
Palm Bay, FL, USA

NEXT STORY: 'Phone Addicts' Are the New Drunk Drivers, Report Says

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.