Death Penalty

Texas Judge Rules State Must Reveal Lethal Injection Drug Supplier

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Texas

A district judge in Texas ruled last week that the state must disclose the pharmacy that supplies it with lethal injection drugs because that information is public. It shouldn't be a surprising ruling. From whom the government makes its purchases generally ought to be public information.

But Texas, and other states with the death penalty, all of whom now use lethal injection as their primary mode of execution, would prefer its drug suppliers remain confidential. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice will appeal the ruling. A spokesperson explained, via the Texas Tribune:

"As we have said before, disclosing the identity of the pharmacy would result in the harassment of the business and would raise serious safety concerns for the business and its employees. It would also have a significant impact on the agency's ability to carry out executions mandated by state law," Clark said. "Protecting the identity of the compounding pharmacist has been previously litigated in both state and federal courts and the agency anticipates winning on appeal, as it has before, when the courts examine the case further."

Texas isn't the only state trying to keep the identity of its drug supplier secret. A bill on its way to passage in Ohio would allow companies that provide the state with drugs for lethal injections to apply for anonymity, which would be granted for 20 years. It also automatically covers individuals involved in the process of executing an individual. And in Tennessee, the question of whether the identity of lethal injection drug suppliers should be kept confidential has reached the Supreme Court.

As Jacob Sullum has argued, the use of lethal injection and the concomitant issue of drug supplies is a distraction from the issue of whether the State ought to put people to death for any crimes. As Sullum writes, the lethal injection serves to "sanitize" the death penalty. Were the state to hire someone who puts bullets in the heads of death row inmates or strings them up, acquiring bullets or rope would not present an issue. But such methods of execution would also reveal the brutality of the death penalty to those who prefer not to consider it.

That states aren't comfortable disclosing from whom they purchase their death drugs suggests a great deal of opposition to the death penalty, opposition that manifests not just as public opinion but as economic and political activity. That activity's an important part of the process of policy making, and states shouldn't try to frustrate it to prevent change.

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  1. So if I were to get drugs secretly from a source in another state, that’s a serious crime. But state governments are ?special?!

    1. Those are entirely different things. In once case, the person’s intent is to use the drugs to positively alter their mood. In the second case, the person’s intent is to use the drugs to kill another person.

  2. The Texas Rangers probably have a lot of heroin and cocaine in their evidence locker, right? Problem solved.

    1. have a lot of heroin and cocaine in their evidence locker

      And encourage drug use, I don’t think so. But you could always use it for one of those “this is your body on heroin” commercials. Kill two birds with one stone that way.

    2. The executed inmate might develop an addiction.

      1. Good Lord, what kind of monster would do THAT to someone?

        Better dead than addicted, I always say…

    3. Depends on whether or not they’ve “destroyed” the evidence.

  3. They’re probably getting the drugs from Europe, even though the EU has banned the export of barbiturates for the use of capital punishment.

  4. I can think of no more humane method of execution than nitrogen axphyxiation.

    I am baffled why the state doesn’t use it. It’s cheap (you need a mask and an O2 and N2 canister, some tubing and a mix valve), effective, painless, and you don’t need EMT’s or docs to administer it.

    It’s also pretty dignified for the guy getting deep-sixed. He passes out quickly and that’s that.

    1. Because the government doesn’t do things for logical reasons. Everything is distorted by perverse incentives and politics. Whether it’s that the person running the death penalty program is a sadist, or that their brother in law supplies the chemicals, or whatever, nothing ever just gets done for the direct reasons.

  5. Massive overdoses of sodium pentothal (I believe) will kill as humanely as you could possibly want. I’ve seen it done on my dogs, and seriously, they just . . . go.

    There are dozens of drugs out there, freely available, that will do the job. Why we need these bizarre cocktails I have no clue.

    1. Exactly this. It took all of 15 seconds to kill my cat (*holds off tears*). The notion that we can’t kill people quickly and painlessly is asinine.

    2. A camel is a horse designed by a committee, and a bizarre cocktail is a lethal injection designed by a committee.

    3. Sodium Phenobarbital. Just had to euthanize a pet last week.

    4. They’re not “freely available”, which is why this is becoming a problem for states with the death penalty. The vendors of these drugs (and/or their precursors) can sell them with restrictions, including not allowing them to be used in executions.

      These compound pharmacies may possibly be putting together the execution drug cocktails for the State in violation of purchase agreements they have with their suppliers.

    5. Badly administered general anesthetic can easily kill people. It’s not hard to make it intentionally bad, or to simply stop a heart once they are unconscious.

    6. Why we need these bizarre cocktails I have no clue.

      Because government isn’t about actually accomplishing tasks, in this case executing a convicted criminal. It’s about complying with government mandates, TO THE LETTER. It’s about force, it’s about control, it’s about demonstrating to the underlings exactly who’s in charge and who are the mere subjects.

      It doesn’t matter that there are several better ways to accomplish the same task. Those methods aren’t approved by your betters.

      COMPLY!

  6. That states aren’t comfortable disclosing from whom they purchase their death drugs suggests a great deal of opposition to the death penalty, opposition that manifests not just as public opinion but as economic and political activity

    The fact states aren’t comfortable disclosing who they buy their drugs from does not mean their is a great deal of opposition. All it means is there is a group of dedicated opponents who will harass the suppliers any where they can, including private residences. That group can be small.

    1. And ^this is reason enough to withhold names.

      There is nothing to be gained from exposing a reticent supplier.

    2. Yes, this is the same old activist playbook: make the death penalty difficult and expensive, and then claim it should be abolished because it’s difficult and expensive. See also: nuclear power.

    3. We need to prosecuite these activists!

  7. There’s no such thing as a humane way to murder a person.

    1. I dunno. If I had to go I’d happily float away on a heroin overdose.

    2. There’s no such thing as a humane way to murder a person.

      No one is talking about murdering someone, they are talking about executing someone. And a heroin overdose is probably a lot more ‘humane’ than being drawn and quartered.

      If you are saying there is no humane way to kill someone, even then there are much more humane ways to do it than what the US seems to use.

      1. There is no difference between murder and execution. The premeditated act of ending someone’s life doesn’t become morally permissible because the guy doing it has the blessing of some imaginary entity.

        1. Think of it as delayed self defense.

            1. If the person being executed committed a crime where lethal self defense would have been justified, then is it really murder?

              1. Yeah, it is.

                Self defense is wholly justified when a person defends himself from an actual attack. Pulling the switch on a guy strapped to a chair in a box is not that.

                If anybody can make a self defense claim in that situation, it’s the guy being executed.

              2. If the person being executed committed a crime where lethal self defense would have been justified, then is it really murder?

                A rape victim shows up in court and guns down her rapist. You think she’s getting charged with murder?

          1. So, in other words, not self defense.

            1. I oppose the death penalty because I don’t trust the government, not because I oppose execution in principle.

              1. That’s a perfectly reasonable position. It’s hard to say that some people don’t deserve to die. It’s still not self defense by any stretch.

        2. There is no difference between murder and execution.

          Definition of murder in English:
          NOUN

          1The unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another:
          Oxford English Dictionary

          See that bolded part, that is the difference. The fact that you may not like it or agree with it is irrelevant.

            1. It’s relevant to me.

              Good, I am glad we can agree that murder and execution are different.

              1. We didn’t agree to that because they’re not different. Passing a law that says something is okay doesn’t make it okay.

                1. We didn’t agree to that because they’re not different.

                  You do understand what the word “unlawful” means right? One is an unlawful killing (murder) and the other is a killing after due process (execution). So murder and execution are not the same. I said nothing about whether or not it is okay. I am saying that your use of the word murder in this situation is incorrect as well as being an emotional appeal, simply because you don’t like or agree with capital punishment. Words actually have meanings, and trying to confound those meanings makes having an actual discussion difficult.

                  1. So, would you say that in the absence of any law, there is no such thing as murder?

                    I think it is pretty silly to insist that murder can only be defined in terms of what law says. It seems pretty clear that most people have a completely morally based notion of what murder is.

                  2. I understand that the word “lawful” means nothing more than “a bunch of people in suits gave it the thumbs up.” So you’ll forgive me if I’m not impressed by the distinction you’re trying to draw.

                    1. So you’ll forgive me if I’m not impressed by the distinction you’re trying to draw.

                      Somehow this doesn’t surprise me.

                    2. Natural law isn’t just a river in Egypt.

                    3. So Hugh, is all male-female penetrative sex the same as rape? It’s just “a bunch of people in suits” who made that distinction. Andrea Dworkin didn’t go along with it. Do you?

                      If you are opposed to the death penalty, fine, but don’t torture the language to make your point.

                    4. That’s an excellent refutation of a point that I’m not defending, PSF.

                      What I’m saying is that people in suits can’t make moral an action that is patently immoral by raising their hands.

                      Picking a more civilized euphemism for murder because John McCain approves of it seems more like an enhanced interrogation of the language to me.

                    5. The definition of lawful killing is not (in this case) simply some people raising their hands and declaring something moral. By long-standing law and tradition, there is nothing “immoral” about an execution. Similarly, a soldier lawfully killing an enemy in war is not murder. Killing in self-defense is also not murder.

                      Now, you may be a vegan Buddhist and think all killing immoral, but to call it all “murder” is simply hyperbole. Words have definitions. Use them correctly.

                    6. Seems like you are making Hugh’s point. Or part of it, at least. Was a husband forcing his wife to have sex any less rape before it was against the law for him to do so? By the same token, murder is murder regardless of whether it is legally sanctioned. And “deliberate killing of another person for reasons other than to protect the life or safety of oneself or other people” seems like a pretty reasonable definition for murder that does include executions. If you don’t think that the state is morally justified in executing people, then of course you think that execution is murder. You might disagree, but it is hardly torturing the language.

                    7. No, I am not making his point. Some radical feminist definitions of rape includes consensual heterosexual intercourse. The accepted definition of rape is non-consensual. That’s the critical bit.

                      Similarly, the accepted definition of murder is unlawful killing. If it’s lawful, it’s not “murder.” If you think the state doesn’t have that right, fine. You can even say “To me, this is the same as murder” or “To me, this is murder.” But you can’t say it “is” murder any more than I can say “Brussel sprouts are poisonous” because I don’t like them.

          1. I would imagine that you also have a moral definition for murder that would apply in spite of what law says, Mr. Bravo. Perhaps I am wrong. But I would think that most people with any sense of morality have a notion of what murder is that has nothing to do with what the law says.

            Going strictly by the NAP, I’d think that murder would be any deliberate killing not necessary for self defense. And execution certainly is that.

            1. I’d say execution is a form of self-defense. It both prevents a murderer from killing again (either out in the world or in prison), and serves as a deterrent to other murders. Obviously that principle could be taken too far, so I don’t support executions for trivial or speculative reasons. But if someone commits a capital crime, and there’s no doubt about guilt, I have no trouble with it. The NAP doesn’t mean you have to sit around and wait for a murderer to kill again.

    3. Hugh, I think there is.

      Humane refers to the means, not the reason, for killing someone.

      A quick, painless death can reasonably be described as humane, I think, regardless of why they are being killed.

    4. Death by snu snu?

      1. The spirit is willing but the flesh is spongy and bruised!

        1. What are you? Gay?

      2. Goodbye friends. I never thought I would die this way, but I always really hoped.

    5. So euthanasia is out, right?

  8. What’s wrong with a good, old-fashioned morphine overdose? Cheap, effective, readily available everywhere, and all you have to do is make sure you’re actually executing the right guy.

    1. Because those decisions are made by committees filled with obstinate fuckwads who care only about their power to make things happen their way, with not a single thought given to the cost or effectiveness of what they want.

    2. I’m coming to the conclusion that the people involved are sadistic fucks who want to torture the condemned individuals.

      1. Well who else would want to have that job?

        Create a position of perverted power, and the worst possible people will gravitate to it.

      1. I OD’d about 10 seconds in.

  9. What about using the drug(s) that are prescribed of Oregon’s assisted suicides?

  10. OT:

    http://www.abajournal.com/news…..ic_stop_sc

    SCOTUS takes another dump on the 4th amendment, Justice Sotomayor the only voice of reason.

    1. I’m an idiot. Really should pay attention once in a while.

    2. They ruled that ignorance of the law was an excuse, if you are a pig?

      The guy paid a union salary to uphold the law has no obligation to actually know or follow it? Fuck all 8 of them with a rusty chainsaw.

    3. Well, are we sure that retarded people ought to know the law? Maybe Roberts is just pointing out the obvious.

  11. The Chinese are apparently actually going after the people in their criminal justice system who contributed to wrongly executing a teen 18 years ago.

    1. I hope they’re prepared to decimate their “justice” system:

      China’s courts, controlled by the ruling Communist Party, have a near-100 percent conviction rate in criminal cases and confessions extracted under dubious conditions are commonplace.

      1. Oh, and Thomas Friedman will be in his bunk.

  12. As Jacob Sullum has argued, the use of lethal injection and the concomitant issue of drug supplies is a distraction from the issue of whether the State ought to put people to death for any crimes

    Yep. It’s the same with the morons who think that getting rid of private prisons will magically end overcriminalization and the Drug War.

  13. When it comes time for my pets, I just take them out back, tie a lead round their neck to a post, and shoot them in the head. Then get out the post digger and dig a grave. Or bag the body and put it in the freezer if it’s winter, and bury it in the spring.

    *shrugs*

  14. We ought to just make all those sentenced fight each other to the death in various Coliseums . Since we’re going down this road anyway.

    1. Put all of them together in one big arena with several hungry lions wandering around. Maybe throw in a few baseball bats or something to make it more sporting. Then show it on pay-per-view. Problem solved.

      1. Even better. Make “Lion Jail” the only punishment for any crime. For some petty theft or something you have to spend half an hour. If you murder someone, you have to stay in for good or until you get eaten.
        This will revolutionize justice and make the whole system self funding.

        1. Discovery Channel’s recently promoted flop would have probably gone better if they used a convict instead of a volunteer?

  15. Even anti-death penalty people should support the sourcing of these drugs from legitimate and “clean” vendors (because poorly-sourced drugs can lead to unnecessary suffering)… while still fighting to end the practice altogether.

  16. There is no difference between murder and execution.

    “Legal” execution is nothing more than revenge murder farmed out to the court system.

    1. and whart is wrong with revenge murder?

  17. Justice Sotomayor the only voice of reason.

    DRINK!

  18. But such methods of execution would also reveal the brutality of the death penalty to those who prefer not to consider it.

    That’s nice.

    The only important questions, however, are:

    1) Is it appropriate for the State to kill anyone? And if so, is it appropriate for them to kill this person for this reason?

    2) Is this method appropriate? (IE, we assume torturing people to death would be bad even if just killing them was not; the operating assumption is that death should be quick and basically painless).

    Demanding people see it as Appropriately “Brutal” is simply a disguised demand that they stop supporting it; “Brutal” is the language of a negative judgment, not an impartiality.

  19. the reason we need to keep the death penalty is because if we lose it, the leadership of the anti-death penalty movement will proceed to campaign to abolish life without parole.

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