Texas prison system running out of execution drug

Texas Death ChamberMail.com

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — The nation’s most active death penalty state is running out of its execution drug.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said Thursday that its remaining supply of pentobarbital expires in September and that no alternatives have been found. It wasn’t immediately clear whether two executions scheduled for next month would be delayed. The state has already executed 11 death-row inmates this year, and at least seven more have execution dates in coming months.  

“We will be unable to use our current supply of pentobarbital after it expires,” agency spokesman Jason Clark said. “We are exploring all options at this time.” Texas switched to the lethal, single-dose sedative last year after one of the drugs used in its three-drug execution process became difficult to obtain and the state’s supply expired. Other death-penalty states have encountered similar problems after some drug suppliers barred the drugs’ use for executions or have refused, under pressure from death-penalty opponents, to sell or manufacture drugs for use in executions.

No executions in Texas were delayed because of that shortfall. “When Texas raises a flag that’s it having a problem, obviously numerically it’s significant around in the country because like they’re doing half the executions in the country right now,” Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death penalty organization, said Thursday.

“The states really scramble to go all over to get drugs,” he said. “Some went overseas, some got from each other. But these manufacturers, a number them are based in Europe, don’t want to participate in our executions. So they’ve clamped down as much as they can,” Dieter said.

Some death penalty states, most recently Georgia, have announced they’re turning to compounding pharmacies, which make customized drugs that are not scrutinized by the Federal Drug Administration, to obtain a lethal drug for execution use.

Missouri wants to use propofol, the anesthetic blamed for pop star Michael Jackson’s 2009 death — even though the drug hasn’t been used to execute prisoners in the U.S. Its potential for lethal injection is under scrutiny by the courts and its first use isn’t likely anytime soon. The Missouri Supreme Court has declined to allow execution dates to be set in that state until the legal issues are resolved.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster recently suggested that if a suitable execution drug can’t be found, the state should consider the gas chamber. State law still allows for execution by lethal gas, though Missouri no longer even has a gas chamber.

A return to the gas chamber or electric chair anywhere would be difficult, Dieter suggested. “Those things just raise the spectacle level and I don’t think it’s where states want to go,” he said. Pentobarbital, which has been used along or in concert with other drugs in all executions in the U.S. the past two years, was more readily available because it was commonly used as a sedative.

“But I guess restrictions have been put on its distribution,” Dieter said. “It’s uncertain where all of this goes because it’s inherently a medical kind of procedure involving some health professionals who are largely focused on keeping people alive. It runs into contradictions with executions — people strapped to a table. Executions aren’t exactly what the medical model is.”

Texas has by far executed more inmates than any other state in the U.S. since the Supreme Court allowed executions to resume. Since 1982, six years after the high court’s order, Texas has executed 503 inmates. Virginia is a distant second at 110.

As of May 2012, Texas had 46 of the 2.5-gram vials of pentobarbital, presumably enough to execute as many as 23 prisoners since each execution requires a 5-gram dose. The execution Wednesday of an inmate convicted in two road-rage killings was the 20th lethal injection since that disclosure.

Associated Press writer Jim Salter in St. Louis contributed to this story.


6 thoughts on “Texas prison system running out of execution drug

  1. expiration dates are screwed and inaccurate tests show. There are very few that actually expire when stated on the package. One might investigate this. Use morphine tis a great way to go says I a former nurse.

    1. I actually thought they could use Heroin. They have a lot of it floating around and it is essentially morphine anyway.

    2. Morphine, ya. Nice Stuff for pain.
      After they popped my dome & lopped off part of my brain (at Stanford Medical Center) one of my first memories was the pain!. Once I realized I should say something (!!) they juiced me up with some of that stuff. Being already hooked up to the IV it was only a few mins b4 I passed out (yeah, no pain) – the drug took about 3 seconds to hit me, instant relief, yup.

      But this is about executions. Death, sure, but no reason for a comfy trip on their way out.

      Bullets are cheap & the gov have tons.
      The Gov also seems to hae an abundance of guillotines…

    3. Who cares about expiration dates? Is it going to become more dangerous and deadly? How stupid is that? Heck, I’ll just donate a few bullets to take care of the slugs.

  2. I say forget executing those on death row and lets start focusing on the crooked cops, politicions and all lawmakers, I mean they deserve the peath penality more so than any prison inmate. I mean like they say about those who cast the first stone be without sin and those in govt. are the biggest hippocrits and sinners amoung the human animal so lets start with those in power and the elite. We do not need them and they are worthless POS.

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