SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

March 28, 2014

Texas must reveal supplier of execution drug

AUSTIN, Texas — A judge ordered Texas prison officials yesterday to disclose the supplier of a new batch of lethal injection drugs to attorneys for two inmates set to be executed next month, but she stopped short of revealing the identity of the manufacturer to the public.

The ruling by state District Judge Suzanne Covington came after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice argued that threats against execution suppliers are escalating. The agency recently obtained a threat assessment from law enforcement officers, and pictures on the Internet suggest physical harm against pharmacists making the drugs, Assistant Attorney General Nicole Bunker-Henderson said.

State prison officials have lost previous attempts to keep information about its execution drug supplier confidential.

“The circumstances have changed from 2012. We can show there’s evidence out there that there has been a significant, real concrete threat to similarly situated pharmacists,” Bunker-Henderson said.

Phil Durst, one of the attorneys trying to make the suppliers known, said they had a right to know where the drugs originated.

“Is it eBay? Did they have some good customer service rankings? We have no idea where it’s from or how it was made,” Durst said. “Maybe this stuff is A-OK. Maybe this stuff was laced with strychnine off the street. We don’t know, and they need to know before they inflict the ultimate penalty.”

Texas prisons spokesman Jason Clark said the agency was “disappointed” in the ruling and would appeal.

The prison agency lost its previous supplier last year after the compound pharmacy’s name was made public and it received threats. Prison officials contend the identity of the new drug source should be withheld to protect the new supplier.

Attorneys for two death row inmates filed the lawsuit that led to Thursday’s abruptly scheduled hearing, contending that prisoners cannot evaluate the risk that could result in them being subjected to unconstitutionally cruel pain.

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