Texas, Fresh Out of Pentobarbital, Begins Experimenting With Execution Drugs

MichaelYowell.jpg
Unless a federal judge decides otherwise, TDCJ will send a surprise coursing through the veins of convicted parents-killer Michael Yowell.
UPDATE: After this item ran, we sent a question to Texas Department of Criminal Justice public information director Jason Clark, asking him -- not to put too fine a point on it -- why Texas doesn't just switch to an alternative method of execution altogether, like the electric chair. The short answer is that to do so would require the Legislature to change the law, but Clark also sent us a statement released this morning concerning the drug used in the state's lethal injection protocol. Here it is:

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice will continue to use pentobarbital to carry out executions. The agency has purchased a new supply of the drug from a Texas pharmacy that has the ability to compound. The purchase will allow the agency to carry out all currently scheduled executions.

Switching the method of execution (from lethal injection to something else) would require legislative action. The agency has not considered changing the method of execution.

Below is Texas Government Code 43.14.

"Whenever the sentence of death is pronounced against a convict, the sentence shall be executed at any time after the hour of 6 p.m. on the day set for the execution, by intravenous injection of a substance or substances in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause death and until such convict is dead, such execution procedure to be determined and supervised by the Director of the institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice."

ORIGINAL POST: The state of Texas, in its unrelenting pursuit of justice, has all but exhausted its supply of pentobarbital, its favored execution drug. It was scheduled to run out last week with the punishment of Arturo Diaz, who was convicted 13 years ago of stabbing a man 94 times in the chest during a robbery of a McAllen apartment.

For mysterious reasons the Texas Department of Criminal Justice declined to explain to Reuters, that didn't happen, with an agency spokesman telling the wire service, "We have not changed our current execution protocol and have no immediate plans to do so."

Unless, that is, a federal judge rules otherwise. As the Austin American-Statesman's Mike Ward reports, three condemned killers, one of whom is set to die a week from today, filed a lawsuit in Houston on Tuesday claiming the state is poised to begin experimenting with new, untested execution drugs.

See also: Today, We Find Out if Texas' Single-Drug Lethal Injection Actually Is More Humane

Neither the inmates nor their attorneys know exactly what drugs TDCJ plans to send pumping through the inmates' veins. The agency has been "obstructionist and secretive," they allege, blocking their efforts to obtain information. But they have their suspicions.

According to documents the plaintiffs obtained by through the state's Public Information Act, the TDCJ is currently seeking or in possession of four potential execution drugs. They are:

Propofol -- The drug that killed Michael Jackson. Intended to be used to induce general anesthesia, it's never been used by any state for lethal injection and "runs a grave risk of causing excruciating pain upon injection." Missouri, with the OK of that state's Supreme Court, has plans to do so this month despite fears that this will lead to a shortage.

The lawsuit says that Hospira, which sold Texas its supply of propofol, is seeking to have the drug returned, since it "does not wish to see its drugs used for executions."

Midazolam and hydromorphone -- Ohio's execution protocols allow for a cocktail midazolam and hyrdromorphone -- the former is a sedative typically used for the treatment of seizures, insomnia and other conditions, the latter a painkilling derivative of morphine -- to be injected into the muscles of an inmate's upper arm, thigh or buttocks. Kentucky's protocol calls for the compound to be injected directly into the veins.

According to the lawsuit, TDCJ purchased its supply of the drugs under misleading pretenses. On its purchase order to Pharmacy Innovations, it listed the "Huntsville Unit Hospital" as the entity that was to receive the drugs."The Huntsville Unit Hospital has not existed since 1983," the suit says. "Pharmacy Innovations was completely unaware that the drugs sold to TDCJ/the Huntsville Unit Hospital were purchased with the intent to use them for lethal injections."

Compounded pentobarbital -- Chemically speaking, on-demand batches of compounded pentobarbital would be no different from the stuff Texas used to get from pharmaceutical companies. But, as the lawsuit points out, compounding pharmacies are not well regulated by the FDA, and "[p]roblems with compounded drugs and compounding pharmacies abound." In other words, there'd be no guarantee the inmates wouldn't go painfully.

According to the lawsuit, TDCJ officials also tried to go through Pharmacy Innovations for its supply of compounded pentobarbital, again listing the long-shuttered Huntsville Unit Hospital as the recipient, only to be rebuffed by the company, which canceled the order once it discovered the drug was intended for executions.

The inmates stake their claim on the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. It will be up to U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes to decide whether this new batch of drugs, untested as they are, rise to that level. And she'll have to make an initial ruling soon. Michael Yowell is asking for a temporary injunction delaying his scheduled October 9 execution.

First, though, TDCJ will have to say what drug or drugs it plans to use to kill Yowell.

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36 comments
CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

A truly morally advanced people ultimately will outlaw the death penalty. The "eye for an eye" code was an Iron Age concept for a morally primitive people who also believed slavery was justifiable, women were mere chattel and prostitutes should be stoned to death.

Fluker12
Fluker12

I've had Propofol a couple times in the hospital.    Their last shot will be one of the best in their lives.   Everytime I came out from a dose I'd be pissed,  wanting more of it.   It's that good.  Crims will be jumping up on the Great Dead-Bed,  asking to be tied down.

The electric chair was Old Sparky.  When injections started,  the State Bar had a very informal contest to Name That Gurney.   Winner was,  thanks to the musical OKLAHOMA,   Gurney With the Fringe On Top.

Anybody got suggestions?


terryh99
terryh99

I have never understood why they don't just use heroin. Most of the inmates would be agreeable to it & they have an unlimited supply in-house.

crimjunkie
crimjunkie

"It will be up to U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes to decide whether this new batch of drugs, untested as they are, rise to that level. And she'll have to make an initial ruling soon."

Editor alert:  Lynn Hughes is a dude.  Google him.  You'll be fascinated.

roo_ster
roo_ster

Firing squad FTW.  Cheap & easy.


If I am to be executed for whatever reason, I want the firing squad.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Why don't they just use morphine? 

If we're going to kill people, the least we could do is do it mercifully.

FEDUP
FEDUP

ONE ROUND TO THE HEAD. 


Threeboys
Threeboys

Anti-freeze injection will work.

And it'll probably hurt like hell, like it should.

jamessavik
jamessavik

Firing squads still work and I doubt Texas is going to run out of bullets any time soon.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

Michael Yowell is a pussy.

"he shot his father in the head, strangled his mother with a lamp cord and blew up the family home"

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

They better be careful with these experiments, they might fuck up and not kill somebody.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Just use morphine.  It's what hospitals use to put down the elderly when it is time for them to go.

It's done thousands of times a day across America and the world.

to relieve the pain, of course.

Greg820
Greg820

When Big Pharma doesn't want you to use their drugs, you know you have lost the battle. 

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

I'm still trying to figure out why we don't just hang them like used to be done and forget this injection nonsense entirely.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

I have some iffy potato salad left over from Labor day if they would like to try that .

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@Fluker12 

Hit 'em with a double dose of heroin.  Then zap 'em.

I hear a heroin high is closer to heaven than an orgasm.

JFPO
JFPO

"Mercifully" does not satisfy the bloodlust of the typical American Idiot. See previous comments...

Fluker12
Fluker12

@Sharon_Moreanus  Well,  as the Hahvahd admissions officer supposedly told the applicant who shared with her,   he'd murdered both parents,  two brothers,  one sister,  "Well,  these things DO happen.  Now, about financial aid ..."

Greg820
Greg820

@holmantx   I have seen more than my share of morphine drips in my career.  It ain't a fun way to go. 

miss-ashly
miss-ashly

@holmantx It's used on patients that are passing naturally, not as a way to speed along the process. It makes their last agonizing breaths easier on them and their family. The idea that these people are being offed with morphine is despicable. 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@P1Gunter .  Yep give em an anesthetic to knock em out, then pull the box out from under em....or firing squad.  

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@Greg820 @holmantx

Then combine it with a suicide bag, also known as an exit bag, which is a device consisting of a large plastic bag with a drawcord used to commit suicide. It is usually used in conjunction with an inert gas like helium or nitrogen, which prevents the panic, sense of suffocation and struggling during unconsciousness (the hypercapnic alarm response) usually caused by the deprivation of oxygen in the presence of carbon dioxide. This method also makes the direct cause of death difficult to trace if the bag and gas canister are removed before the death is reported. Right-to-die groups recommend this form of suicide as certain, fast, and painless, according to a 2007 study.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@miss-ashly @holmantx

It's used on inmates that are passing unnaturally, as a way to speed along the process. It makes their last agonizing breaths easier on them and their family.

The idea that these people are being offed with morphine is despicable. We ought to use drain cleaner.

for it was their heinous crime that was truly despicable. 

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@ScottsMerkin I'm not sure if you've ever seen Oz, but in that show you got to choose how you were killed if you were on death row. Firing squad definitely seemed the best option with the chair being by far the worst.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@holmantx @miss-ashly yes holman, their crimes were despicable, but the visual you created in your original post was that of grandma and grandpa being offed by the hospital with morphine

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