Inmates claim Texas intends to utilize lethal injection medicines

Three death row convicts claim in a complaint that Texas intends to carry out executions early this year in violation of state law by using stale and dangerous medicines.

Prison authorities refute the assertion and assert that the state’s supply of medications for executions is secure.

Robert Fratta will be the first to be put to death on January 10. The case filed by Fratta, Wesley Ruiz, and John Balentine was placed on hold by the state’s highest criminal court of appeals on Friday while it reviewed an appeal filed by the Texas Attorney General’s Office. The state prefers that a criminal court, not a civil one, determine the matter.

An attorney representing Balentine and Ruiz, who are both scheduled for death in February, Shawn Nolan, questioned Texas’ secrecy regarding its execution processes.

Medication Suppliers

Beginning in 2015, state lawmakers outlawed the disclosure of the medication suppliers used in executions. In 2019, the Texas Supreme Court affirmed the rule.

Nolan stated that Texas “continues to simply completely rely on secrecy in these executions and that’s why they’re attempting to conduct an end around around this case because they don’t want to inform anyone that these medications are expired.”

To ascertain if convicts are at “substantial danger of pain and suffering in the execution process,” Nolan said, the detainees’ attorneys have requested an evidentiary hearing.

Since Texas became the first state to employ this form of execution in 1982, there have been issues with lethal injections. Finding suitable veins has proven to be challenging, and complications with the medications or disconnected needles have also arisen.

Since regular drugmakers refused to provide their drugs to prison agencies in the United States, Texas, like other states, has turned to compounding pharmacies to get the pentobarbital it needs for executions.

According to Amanda Hernandez, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, or TDCJ, “all lethal injection medicines are within their usage dates and have been properly tested,” in an email on Tuesday.

However, Michaela Almgren, a professor of pharmacology at the University of South Carolina, claimed in a 15-page declaration submitted in support of the death row inmates’ lawsuit that she came to the conclusion that “all the pentobarbital in TDCJ’s possession is expired, as it is far beyond” the specified beyond use date after reviewing state records.

She discovered that some vials of pentobarbital were more than 630 days old, while others were more than 1,300 days old—far over its 24-hour use-by date cap. The maximum time after which such compounded medications can no longer be used is 45 days.

Drug’s Expiration

Attorneys for the prisoners were able to obtain departmental records that revealed testing of the pentobarbital supply’s strength by prison authorities resulted in an extension of the drug’s expiration date to September and November.

The state’s testing, according to Almgren, was “totally unscientific and erroneous, and as a result the results are invalid.”

According to Nolan, utilizing outdated medications would be against the Texas Pharmacy Act and the Texas Controlled Substances Act, among other state crimes.

After the case was initially filed, Fratta joined it. All three prisoners’ attorneys claim that they are not attempting to prevent the government from “carrying out legitimate executions.”

“The state is free to carry out these killings if they so choose. Simply obtain non-expired medications, suggested Nolan.

Execution Drug’s Origin

Documents revealed on Wednesday, weeks after Texas prison authorities neglected to disclose how they acquired the medications despite a countrywide scarcity, show that the country’s most active death penalty state has turned to a compounding pharmacy to replace its outdated execution chemicals.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Associated Press, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has made papers public that demonstrate the purchase of eight vials of the medication pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy in a suburban Houston area last month. These pharmacies custom-make medications yet are exempt from federal oversight.

The sedative’s previous supply to Texas ran out last month, but jail authorities wouldn’t disclose the source of their new supply. There is a scarcity of the medicine in states that utilize the death sentence because a number of businesses won’t supply it. At least South Dakota and Georgia have turned to compounding pharmacies.