Texas judge orders prisons to name lethal injection drug supplier

AUSTIN, Texas, March 27 Thu Mar 27, 2014 3:11pm EDT

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AUSTIN, Texas, March 27 (Reuters) - A Texas state judge ordered the department of corrections on Thursday to disclose the name of the supplier of drugs used in executions, a decision that adds support to calls for removing secrecy when it comes to lethal injections.

The suit was brought on behalf of two inmates scheduled to be executed next month and was filed at about the same time a judge in neighboring Oklahoma ruled on Wednesday that the state's secrecy on its lethal injections protocols was unconstitutional.

"The (Texas) ruling signals - as other courts have done recently - that it is unacceptable to keep prisoners or the public in the dark regarding how executions are carried out - including the source of the drugs," said Maurie Levin, an attorney for the petitioners.

The Texas Attorney General's office plans to appeal the decision.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said in a statement: "We are disappointed in the district court's decision and will be appealing the ruling to a higher court."

The department has said it wanted to keep the name of its new supplier secret to shield it from attacks.

The previous supplier cut ties to the system last year when its name was revealed and it came under threats.

The decision was for the two inmates scheduled to be executed with a new batch of the sedative pentobarbital, used for lethal injections.

It should have no impact for an execution scheduled on Thursday at the state's death chamber in Huntsville, with the lethal injection drug having been obtained earlier.

Texas, which has executed more prisoners than any other state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, said this month it had obtained a new batch of the execution drugs, without saying where the drugs had come from.

Several other states have struggled to obtain drugs for executions, while many pharmaceutical companies, mostly in Europe, have imposed sales bans because they object to having medications made for other purposes used in lethal injections.

The states said they have looked to alter the mix of drugs used for lethal injections and keep the suppliers' identities secret. They have also turned to lightly regulated compounding pharmacies. Those pharmacies can mix drugs, often to meet needs not available in prescription medication, the pharmacy compounding accreditation board said.

But lawyers for death row inmates argue that drugs from compounding pharmacies can lack purity and potency and cause undue suffering, in violation of the U.S. Constitution. (editing by Gunna Dickson)

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