DALLAS — Texas will use one drug to carry out executions instead of its usual three-drug method because it has run out of one of the drugs, prison officials said Tuesday.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice will use just pentobarbital, a sedative that is typically the first of three drugs administered. The agency’s stock of the second drug, pancuronium bromide, expired, and it was unable to obtain more, spokesman Jason Clark said.
Clark said other states also now use one drug and that courts have upheld the procedure.
Scott Cobb with the Texas Moratorium Network, an anti-death penalty group, predicted the change will be met with further lawsuits from inmates facing execution under the new one-drug protocol.
“There’s always a concern when you institute a new procedure to execute someone because the people who administer it aren’t trained to use it and don’t know what the effects are,” Cobb said. “On a deeper level, even if they start using this one-drug procedure, it’s not going to be the end of their problems,” he said, noting the state supply of pentobarbital is purchased from a Denmark company that protests its use in capital punishment.
“The reasons they (are) having supply problems is, manufacturers don’t want their drugs used for executions,” Cobb said. “So it’s only a matter of time before the new drug supply is diminished.”
Texas is the nation’s most active death penalty state. It has executed 482 people since the state reinstated capital punishment in 1982. Five people have been executed this year. Texas’ next execution is set for July 18.
“Implementing the change in protocol at this time will ensure that the agency is able to fulfill its statutory responsibility for all executions currently scheduled,” Clark said in the statement.
Several states have had difficulty obtaining drugs to carry out executions. Texas prison officials said in May that the state had enough pentobarbital for 23 executions. No executions have taken place since then.
Pentobarbital is the first lethal drug used during each execution in Huntsville, according to Texas death penalty procedures.
Last year, one of the drugs Texas had used in the process became unavailable when its European supplier bowed to pressure from death penalty opponents and stopped making it. No other vendor could be found, so the drug was replaced by pentobarbital.
Pancuronium bromide is a muscle relaxant typically used after pentobarbital. The final drug, potassium chloride, stops the heart.
Arizona, Idaho, Ohio and Washington have used a single drug to carry out executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Ohio was the first to use just pentobarbital, for a March 2011 execution.
In April, an Arizona inmate shook for several seconds after receiving a lethal dose of pentobarbital. The drug had been used by itself.
Additional material from staff writer Chuck Lindell.
Bob Ray Sanders has renewed his call for a moratorium on executions in Texas. A moratorium is the best strategy in Texas for ending the death penalty in Texas soonest. States that conduct a lot of executions, such as Texas, need to go through a period when no executions are conducted before they are likely to reach the conclusion that they can do without the death penalty. A moratorium would also be the best way to ensure that Texas does not execute an innocent person like it did in 2004 when Todd Willingham was executed.
On June 29, 1972, the Supreme Court declared the death penalty “cruel and unusual punishment” based mostly on the “arbitrary and capricious” nature of how it was being applied by the states. That 5-4 ruling in effect ushered in a moratorium on capital punishment for a few years.
I want to use the anniversary of that ruling to make two appeals: one to call for another moratorium on the death penalty, and the other to ask help for state prisoners who once again are suffering through a sweltering Texas summer.
Prior to the 1972 decision, Texas executed 361 people by electrocution, with the last one occurring in 1964, according to records of the Department of Criminal Justice. In those days, rape was one of the crimes for which one could be put to the death, something that had changed by the time executions were reinstated effective Jan. 1, 1974.
The state retired “Old Sparky” (the electric chair) and in 1977 adopted lethal injection as a means of execution. A Fort Worth resident, Charlie Brooks, became the first person in the country to die by lethal injection in 1982. Since then, 481 other men and women have been killed in the Texas death chamber, and eight more are scheduled to die this year.
Through those years, it has been easy to see that the death penalty as administered in this country, especially in Texas, remains arbitrary and capricious.
In recent years, the Supreme Court has ruled that the state cannot execute people who are mentally ill or those who were juveniles at the time of their crimes — the decisions coming too late for several in those categories who had been put to death.
While I’d like to see the death penalty outlawed outright, as some other states have done in the past few years, at the very least we should call for another moratorium so that we can have a rational discussion about the legality and morality of capital punishment.
250 executions under one Governor. It is an almost unbelievable number, but it could happen by the end of 2012. As of today, 243 people have been executed since Texas Governor Rick Perry took office in 2000. More people have been executed under Perry than under any other governor in U.S. history. One of the people executed under Perry was Todd Willingham in 2004, who was innocent. Rick Perry did not even consider pausing executions after it became apparent that an innocent person had been executed.
Currently, there are eight more executions scheduled in Texas this year, which would bring Perry’s total to 251. More executions could still be scheduled and some of the executions will probably be stayed.
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Last updated June 25, 2012
Below is the text of the death penalty section of the 2012 Texas Democratic Party platform in which the party calls for the abolition of the death penalty. The full platform is on the TDP website.
Despite 41 DNA exonerations in Texas in the last 9 years, Rick Perry says he never loses sleep over executing the innocent. Perry has overseen over 240 executions in Texas. Detailed research shows that the Texas death penalty system cannot insure that innocent and undeserving defendants are not sentenced to death. Death penalty exonerations have already revealed deep flaws in our State’s criminal justice system.
Evidence –‐ including scientific evidence, extensive studies by innocence Project, major newspaper and university research strongly suggests that Texas has already executed innocent defendants including Carlos DeLuna, Ruben Cantu, and Cameron Todd Willingham. Former Governor Mark White has stated we must take every step to ensure there is never another innocent man executed.
The application of the death penalty in Texas is disproportionately applied to the poor and minorities. The system has allowed in the past the execution of juveniles, the mentally ill and poor defendants who had such inadequate counsel that their lawyers literally slept through their trials.
Other states are increasingly rejecting the death penalty as evidenced by the legislatures in New Jersey (2007), New Mexico (2009),Illinois (2011), and Connecticut (2012) repealing the death penalty.
In order to promote public confidence and fairness in the Texas Criminal Justice system, Texas Democrats call for the passage of legislation that would abolish the death penalty in Texas and replace it with the punishment of life in prison without parole.
After 12 years of organizing and lobbying by ordinary grassroots Democrats across the state as well as by exonerated former death row inmates, the Texas Democratic Party has adopted a platform that calls for repealing the death penalty in Texas. Thank you to all the Democrats across the state who worked so hard over the years for this moment to arrive and thank you especially to the delegates at the 2012 Texas Democratic Party State Convention for approving a platform calling for abolition of the death penalty!
Thank you especially today to death row exoneree Clarence Brandley and to Elizabeth Gilbert (a friend of Todd Willingham) who both spoke at Friday’s packed caucus meeting of “Democrats Against the Death Penalty”. We urged everyone at the meeting to elect platform committee members who would vote yes for abolition.
For the last 12 years Texas Moratorium Network has been urging the Texas Democratic Party to take a position against the death penalty and in favor of various criminal justice reforms that would improve the system, decrease wrongful convictions and eliminate the possibility of innocent people being executed. Starting in 2000, we have had a booth at every State Convention. In 2004, TMN developed the strategy of changing the platform through the Chair’s Advisory Committee on the Platform. In 2004, TMN’s Scott Cobb was on the chair’s advisory committee and elected to the permanent platform committee at the convention and wrote an entirely new section of the platform entitled “Capital Punishment” that for the first time ever included support for a stop to executions with a moratorium and a study commission.
In 2004, members of TMN also for the first time organized a caucus within the party to push for abolishing the death penalty – “Democrats Against the Death Penalty”. We have held a meeting of the caucus at each State Convention since 2004, when we had a team of about 30 volunteers at the convention collecting signatures on a petition for a death penalty moratorium in order to bring a resolution to the floor of the convention for a vote. We collected signatures from more than 30 percent of the delegates which was enough to bring the resolution for a moratorium to the floor for a vote where it was approved overwhelmingly. In 2006, we went back to hold another caucus meeting. In 2008, more than 300 people attended the meeting at the State Convention of “Democrats Against the Death Penalty”. In 2008, many people worked very hard and succeeded in getting the Resolutions Committee to approve a resolution in favor of abolishing the death penalty, but the convention adjourned before the abolition resolution received a vote on the floor of the convention.
In 2008, we proposed making further progress by adding language in favor of abolishing the death penalty at the Chair’s Advisory Committee on the Platform, but our proposal was rejected by the committee because the party was perceived to be not yet ready to take the position to end the death penalty. We met again at the 2010 convention in Corpus Christi when we brought death row exoneree Juan Melendez to speak to our caucus meeting and to the resolutions committee.
Today, we just returned from another State Convention where we again had a booth and a caucus meeting with about 130 attendees in a packed room. Before the convention, we sent an email to about 5,000 delegates and alternates urging them to support repeal of the death penalty. And we succeeded. Texas Democrats are now on record in support of repealing the death penalty.
“Democrats Against the Death Penalty” met 10-11 AM Friday, June 8, 2012 at the Texas Democratic Party State Convention in Room 370 ABC at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Guest speakers included:
Clarence Brandley, an innocent man who spent ten years on Texas death row for a crime he did not commit.
Elizabeth Gilbert, who was a close friend of Todd Willingham, an innocent man executed by Texas. Elizabeth’s role in Todd’s fight to prove his innocence was told in the article in The New Yorker by David Grann “Trial by Fire”.
Senator Rodney Ellis said in the most recent issue of Texas Monthly, “I’m convinced [Cameron Todd] Willingham was innocent”.
We sold a bunch of DVDs at the convention of the award-winning documentary “Incendiary: The Willingham Case” by Austin filmmakers Steve Mims and Joe Bailey Jr.
Keith Hampton dropped by and introduced himself to the crowd. He is running against Sharon Keller for the position of Presiding Judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. She is the judge who said “we close at 5” and refused to stay open to allow lawyers for a person about to be executed to submit an appeal.
Thank you to our volunteers at the booth, Jamie Bush, Scott Cobb, Hooman Hedayati, Gloria Rubac, Angie Agapetus, Lee Greenwood, Delia Perez Meyer and Joanne Gavin.
Texas Moratorium Network (TMN) is a non-profit organization with the primary goal of mobilizing statewide support for a moratorium on executions in Texas. Significant death penalty reform in Texas, including a moratorium on executions, is a viable goal if the public is educated on the death penalty system and is encouraged to contact their elected representatives to urge passage of moratorium legislation.
We hope that you will join us in this fight for fairness and social justice.Please join our email list and become one of the more than 20,000 people receiving information through our network.