Inmates Claim Texas Intends To Utilize Unsafe Execution Drugs

Three death row inmates claim in a lawsuit that Texas intends to carry out executions early this year in violation of state law by using stale and dangerous medicines.

Prison officials refute the assertion and assert that the state’s supply of medications for executions is secure.

Robert Fratta will be the first to be put to death on January 10. The lawsuit filed by Fratta, Wesley Ruiz, and John Balentine was placed on hold by the state’s highest criminal court of appeals on Friday while it reviewed an appeal filed by the Texas Attorney General’s Office. The state prefers that a criminal court decide the case, not a civil one.

An attorney for Balentine and Ruiz, who are both scheduled for execution in February, Shawn Nolan, questioned Texas’ secrecy regarding its execution processes.

Beginning in 2015, state lawmakers outlawed disclosing the drug suppliers used in executions. In 2019, the Texas Supreme Court affirmed the rule.

Nolan stated that Texas “continues to rely on secrecy in these executions, and that’s why they’re attempting to conduct an end run around this case because they don’t want to tell anyone that these medications are expired.”

To ascertain whether prisoners are at “substantial risk of pain and suffering in the execution process,” Nolan said that the inmates’ attorneys requested an evidentiary hearing.

Since Texas became the first state to employ this method of execution in 1982, there have been issues with lethal injections. Finding suitable veins has proven challenging, and complications with the medications or disconnected needles have also arisen.

Since traditional drugmakers refused to provide their drugs to prison agencies in the United States, Texas, like other states, has turned to compound pharmacies to obtain the pentobarbital it needs for executions.

According to Amanda Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, or TDCJ, “all lethal injection medicines are within their use dates and have been properly tested,” in an email on Tuesday.

However, Michaela Almgren, a professor of pharmacology at the University of South Carolina, claimed in a 15-page declaration submitted in support of the death row inmates’ lawsuit that she came to a conclusion that “all the pentobarbital in TDCJ’s possession is expired, as it is far beyond” the specified beyond use date after reviewing state records.

Drugs that have passed their “beyond use date” run the danger of developing stability and sterility issues as well as losing some of their efficacy; therefore, they shouldn’t be utilized, according to Almgren.

She discovered that some vials of pentobarbital were more than 630 days old, while others were more than 1,300 days old—far past its 24-hour use-by date cap. The maximum time after compounded medications can no longer be used 45 days.

Attorneys for the prisoners could obtain departmental records that revealed testing of the pentobarbital supply’s strength by prison officials resulted in an extension of the drug’s expiration date to September and November.

The state’s testing, according to Almgren, was “totally unscientific and erroneous, and as a result, the results are invalid.”

According to Nolan, utilizing outdated medications would be against the Texas Pharmacy Act and the Texas Controlled Substances Act, among other state crimes.

After the lawsuit was initially filed, Fratta joined it. All three prisoners’ attorneys claim they are not attempting to prevent the government from “carrying out legitimate executions.”

“The state is free to carry out these killings if they choose. Obtain non-expired medications, suggested Nolan.

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