Amid dwindling support for capital punishment, one of the many challenges facing states that intend to carry out death sentences for inmates has been a lack of lethal injection drugs. Companies that previously produced the drugs have been declining to sell them to states, citing ethical qualms and, occasionally, threats of harm. Just this week, an Oklahoma appeals court put two executions on hold because the state had run out of pentobarbital, the first drug in the typical three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections. Now Texas has announced that it has found a new supply of the drugs and the state is not telling where it got them.
The decision to keep details about the drugs and their source secret puts the agency at odds with past rulings of the state attorney general’s office, which has said the state’s open records law requires the agency to disclose specifics about the drugs it uses to carry out lethal injections.
“We are not disclosing the identity of the pharmacy because of previous, specific threats of serious physical harm made against businesses and their employees that have provided drugs used in the lethal injection process,” said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark.
That seems about right. To the extent disclosure would put individuals or property in danger, Texas should not tell where it got the drugs. Feelings run hot about the death penalty, but opponents of the practice do themselves no favors when they threaten violence.
Several states have experimented with new lethal injection procedures, but not always successfully. And if the idea is to shut down capital punishment by strangling the supply of lethal injection drugs, there are plenty of other ways to execute a person.