Texas Began Stockpiling Execution Drugs Before Shortage

A scoop from the Austin American-Statesman reveals the state spent $50,000 buying up the drugs last year before other states scrambled to get them from sources abroad.
Fri June 22, 2012 8:00 pm
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Texas began stockpiling lethal injection drugs before there was a nationwide shortage of the chemicals, reporting from the Austin American-Statesman ’s Mike Ward revealed.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice responded to Ward’s public information request with the documents after Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told the department to share the information.

The response “confirmed that Texas purchased its lethal drugs in spring 2011 through a U.S.-based supplier, not through a shadowy overseas network that several other states had used last year — actions that drew federal agents to seize illegally imported drugs,” Ward wrote. “Texas appeared to get a head start on other states by buying the drugs when supplies were still available. By the summer of 2011, the domestic supplies had mostly dried up — and the other states were left hunting for pentobarbital in places such as England and Pakistan.”

Texas now has enough of the drugs on hand to perform 23 executions, according to Ward. (In 2012, the state has already executed five people and has seven other executions scheduled through the end of the year.)

Ward reported that his paper made the public information request in March after it came to light that Texas had bought $50,000 in lethal injection drugs in a few months.

Last year, Texas swapped the barbiturate it uses in executions, substituting pentobarbital for sodium thiopental after the sole supplier of the latter said the drug could no longer be used in executions. Last spring, the New York Times ’s Week in Review tackled how the three-drug cocktail works: “a barbiturate is given with pancuronium bromide, a paralyzing drug, and potassium chloride, which induces cardiac arrest.”
 
A U.S. District Judge ruled that states should hand over foreign-sourced sodium thiopental to the FDA, but California and other states have resisted the order, the AP reported in May.

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