Texas looking again for execution drug supply

The gurney used to restrain condemned prisoners during the lethal injection process (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

AUSTIN (AP) — Texas’ prison chief expressed confidence Friday that his agency will track down more of the state’s preferred execution drug once supplies are exhausted, and said he’s unaware of any official consideration of alternatives.

Prison agencies nationwide are struggling to find execution drugs as manufacturers — bowing to pressure from death penalty opponents — refuse to sell their products to states for use in capital punishment. Texas has only enough pentobarbital for two executions scheduled in the coming two weeks.

“The hunt’s always on,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Brad Livingston said. “I think it’s fair to say our objective is to carry out the law and to continue searching for appropriate drugs.

“We’re continuing to do that and feel confident at the end of the day we’ll acquire the drugs we need to carry out the law.”

Some states have turned to compounding pharmacies for made-to-order drugs. Others are considering alternate execution methods, such as nitrogen gas or a firing squad.

Livingston said to his knowledge no such discussion has taken place among officials in Texas, which executes more prisoners than any other state.

“We’re going to continue to keep our options open,” he told The Associated Press before a meeting of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice. “Our first preference would always continue to keep using pentobarbital.”

Texas is among several states that balk at identifying the compound pharmacy providers, citing security threats. Attorneys for death row inmates want supplier names available at least to them, saying their clients have a right to scrutinize the companies making the drugs that will end their lives.

This week, officials urged a Texas House panel to send Republican Gov. Greg Abbott a bill that would keep secret the identity of lethal injection drug suppliers. A Senate committee is to hold a similar hearing next week.

Livingston said Friday that passage of such a law would ease execution drug acquisition.

“I think one of the reasons some of the compound pharmacies have been reluctant is they need an ongoing assurance their anonymity will remain intact,” he said. “This bill will continue to provide for that.”

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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