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TX Death Row Inmates Call Execution Drugs Expired, Unsafe

Three Texas death row inmates charged in a lawsuit that the state plans to use expired and unsafe drugs to carry out executions in violation of state law. Prison officials deny the claim and say the supply of execution drugs is safe, the Associated Press reports. The execution of Robert Fratta is set for next Tuesday. The state’s criminal court of appeals put the lawsuit from Fratta, Wesley Ruiz and John Balentine on hold while it considers an appeal by the Texas Attorney General’s Office. The state wants the case to be decided by a criminal court, not a civil one. Shawn Nolan, an attorney for Balentine and Ruiz, who are set for execution in February, criticized Texas’ secrecy in matters related to its execution procedures.


State lawmakers banned the disclosure of drug suppliers for executions starting in 2015. The Texas Supreme Court upheld the law in 2019. “Texas continues to just really rely on secrecy in these executions and that’s why they’re trying to do an end run around this lawsuit because they don’t want to tell anybody that these drugs are expired,” Nolan said. Inmates have asked for a hearing to determine if prisoners are at “serious risk of pain and suffering in the execution process,” Nolan said. There has been a history of problems with lethal injections since Texas became the first state to use the execution method in 1982. Problems have included difficulty finding usable veins, needles becoming disengaged or issues with the drugs. Like other states, Texas has turned to compounding pharmacies to obtain pentobarbita for executions, after traditional drugmakers refused to sell their products to U.S. prison agencies. In a declaration supporting the inmate lawsuit, Michaela Almgren, a pharmacology professor at the University of South Carolina, concluded after reviewing state records that “all the pentobarbital in TDCJ’s possession is expired, as it is far beyond” the specified use date.

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