Judge allows Texas to keep execution drug secret

FILE - This May 27, 2008 file photo shows the gurney in Huntsville, Texas, where Texas' condemned are strapped down to receive a lethal dose of drugs. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)
FILE - This May 27, 2008 file photo shows the gurney in Huntsville, Texas, where Texas' condemned are strapped down to receive a lethal dose of drugs. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

AUSTIN (AP) — A Texas judge allowed state prison officials on Thursday to keep the identity of a new execution drug supplier secret despite new challenges to the state’s claim that making the name public could put the company in danger.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice argues that threats against execution-drug makers are escalating, though lawyers for the agency offered no new evidence of threats during a brief court hearing. Attorneys for death row inmates say they need to know the name of the supplier to ensure the drugs’ quality and to protect the inmates from unconstitutional pain and suffering.

Phil Durst, a lawyer trying to obtain the information under state open records laws, argued that the drug supplier’s name should be disclosed to attorneys so that the state’s claims of possible violence against compounding pharmacies can be scrutinized.

“They tell us the world is going to end, that there’s going to be violence, but maybe the person who provided it doesn’t care. Maybe they have protections in place,” Durst said.

The Associated Press last week reported that Texas officials have offered scant evidence to support their claim that compounding pharmacies supplying state with execution drugs would be in danger of violence if their identities were made public. The AP has found no evidence of any investigations in Texas into threats against such companies.

Durst attached the story to a briefing filed with the court Thursday.

The state argued in court papers Thursday that the risk of leaks is too great and that not even the Texas Department of Public Safety knows the name of the supplier. It wrote that keeping the identity completely confidential is the “only reliable way” to protect the pharmacy and its employees.

State District Judge Stephen Yelenosky declined to force state prison officials to reveal the supplier while another court considers the issue.

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