Texas Can't Kill Prisoners Until It Says Where It Got Its Pentobarbital, Federal Judge Says [Updated]

Thumbnail image for ExecutionChamberFlickrTWoodards.jpg
T Woodard
Update: Never mind. An appeals court overturned Gilmore's decision.

Original post: There have been two significant developments since the Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that the state doesn't have to say where it got the pentobarbital it will use to kill death row inmates Tommy Lynn Sells and Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas.

One is that the state of Texas, which had been rather vague but generally insisted that naming the supplier would put them in great danger, gave a specific example of a case in which that happened. This wasn't in Texas. When The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy was revealed as the provider of the state's just-expired cache of drugs, it seems to have suffered nothing worse than angry phone calls and bad publicity. But it did actually happen.

"An individual threatened to blow up a truck full of fertilizer outside a pharmacy supplying substances to be used in executions," a Texas Department of Criminal Justice attorney wrote in a brief on Tuesday.

The bigger development is that a federal judge in Houston has halted the execution of Sells and Hernandez-Llanas on the grounds that they and their attorneys have a right to know the source of the pentobarbital that will soon be flowing through their veins, both in the interest of transparency and to make sure the state won't be running afoul of the constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

"Without some detail about the source of the drugs and the integrity of the testing, [Sells and Hernandez-Llanas] are prevented from raising a specific Eighth Amendment challenge to their executions," U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore writes. "Until Plaintiffs have full disclosure of the product with which Texas will cause their death, they cannot fully develop a challenge to its process."

Texas did, two days before Sells was scheduled to die, offer defense attorneys a report assuring the purity and potency of the pentobarbital, but that's not enough, Gilmore says. The state has "masked information about the product that will kill them" and left out "important details allowing an assessment of the drug's efficacy."

Maurie Levin, an attorney for the inmates, sums it up nicely in a statement to The Associated Press: "This last-minute litigation and stays of execution would not be necessary if (TDCJ) had not ignored the rule of law and tried to shield this information from the public and the light of day."

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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38 comments
ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

What difference, at this point, does it make?

dldl43
dldl43

The Death Penalty opposers will file anything to stop or delay an execution.

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

I've got some spare rope instead.


Please don't tell me, we are all for now taking away the death penalty - if you are, I sure hope you feel the pain the pain of a loved one being taken away from you, brutally and you get to live with the fact that they will NEVER understand the pain you are left with. I am all for the family deciding if they should prosecute for the death penalty or not.

JSSS
JSSS

I'll volunteer to take care of the problem. Both the gun and the bullets will come from Walmart. Hell, I won't even charge the state for them -- just pick up my gasoline tab and we'll call it even.

From the DMN: "Sells, 49, was convicted of killing a 13-year-old South Texas girl asleep at her home in 1999. Kaylene Harris was stabbed nearly two dozen times and had her throat slashed. A 10-year-old friend also was attacked but survived. Sells confessed to the slaying and has been tied to more than 20 others around the nation. He has claimed responsibility for as many as 70 murders."

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

I think you got your facts wrong on this, Eric.  

The Woodlands Compounding pharmacy is just outside of Houston (not out-of-state) and was supplying the state of Texas with phenobarbital (not peno.... pheno...).  The state agreed to keep their name private, but it came out in financial documents anyway, so the owner stopped supplying.  The drugs Woodland supplied are not expired; they're still in inventory with the DOC and are what's being used right now.

The mistake you made was in single-sourcing this information from just the defense attorney. 

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

If it was a firing squad theyd want to know where the bullet came from.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Can't they just get this crap online and take their chances with counterfeits just like we do?

All of our drugs are made in China, India, or Puerto Rico, so just give it a whirl. Make it a payperview Wheel of Fortune kind of thing.

casiepierce
casiepierce

Hum, people against execution threatening to blow up a fertilizer truck in front of the plant. Nice.

Threeboys
Threeboys

I don't care where it comes from, I just care where it goes.

James080
James080

This ruling will last about a day after it lands at the 5th Circuit.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

If the drug doesn't kill them well enough, we can have a guard standing by with a pillow.


Done.


Barnaby fucking Jones, if we're going to be executing people, let's admit to ourselves that we're executing them and stop pussy footing around.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@ColonelAngus

You're supposed to say this after the dude is dead.

Threeboys
Threeboys

And fight like hell to maximize abortion rights

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@whocareswhatithink

The American public favors the death penalty. Laws reflect community standards.

Personally, I'm in favor - but in recent years, due to the results of DNA testing revealing innocence, I would like to see some standard that removes all doubt of guilt, if that's possible.

And, if the condemned for whatever reason beats the needle, then life in prison is no cakewalk. Just as long as they'll never again walk among us, whatever it takes.

As to your "spare rope" gotta be careful. Remember what kept happening when the newly-liberated Iraqis went on a hanging binge? Hangees kept losing their heads.

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum topcommenter

@JSSS I get it - he's a bad man, but that doesn't mean we should lower ourselves to his level and take his life. Life imprisonment is the only truly ethical solution.

Oxtail
Oxtail

@JSSS  A better idea would be to just suck their brains out with a vacuum, or scramble their brains with a coathanger. Its already legal for other unwanted humans.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@bvckvs

pentobarbital is correct. However, if combined with alcohol or antihistamines, there could be adverse reaction, including, but not limited to, death. I assume the state provides only O'Douls as the final beverage of choice.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@casiepierce

We killed 600,000 innocent Iraqis to stop their chief executive from using chemical weapons against his own people.  It's an important issue.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@TheRuddSki  

I just don't think that standard is attainable. 

As much as I enjoy the idea of frying the brains of POS's like this dude, our criminal justice system is an adversarial venue that values winning over justice. Therefore, It still isn't and may never be foolproof enough to prevent ambitious prosecutors from playing fast and loose with the rules in order to secure a conviction, regardless of the actual guilt or innocence of the defendant.

ColonelAngus
ColonelAngus

@CogitoErgoSum @JSSS Cog - OK, your respect for the sanctity of human life is appreciated.  But to equate the execution of justice upon this POS with his murderous crimes is ridiculous, IMHO.  Were his victims members of your family, your wife, or your daughters, would you still be here, espousing the same ideals?  Come on, man!  Murder is murder.  Capital punishment is justice, presuming an airtight case.

James080
James080

@bvckvs @casiepierce 

Straw man argument. Weak at that. Stick to your moronic rants against everyone politically to the right to Nancy Pelosi. 

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@bvckvs

When the Sunnis, Al-Qaida In Iraq and various Islamist political community organizations worked feverishly to murder as many fellow Islamics as possible, they were counting on the reliable American left to blame every Muslim-on-Muslim death on George Bush.

Y'all came through magnificently, and you still do to this day. The best aid-and-comfort ally was of course the detestable, treasonous, suffering-from-dementia Harry "Aid and Comfort" Reid - who really could use some phenobarbital due to his Kochophobia, the poor man.

James080
James080

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @James080  

I should of taken the "under." I don't believe the judgment by Clinton appointee U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore lasted the day, before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk

As with O'Care and global climate broiling: The Debate Is Over

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@TheRuddSki  

Science may be pure, but as we all know from our "Fun With Climate Science" classes, interpretation of said science is rife with opportunity for politics. 

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk

I agree with the winning vs justice thesis (married to the law for 17 years), but I still think that purely scientific proof is attainable.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@James080

But fruit, none the less.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@James080

Yes! That was my point, bvckvs is my springboard to jump into my favorite rant-pools!

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@James080

No! Don't deprive me of opportunities to vent my mild dislike of Harry Reid or modern Saddamites!

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