Before today's federal district court action, Texas newspapers were speaking out on the TDCJ's penchant for secrecy.
Today's Austin American-Statesman published the editorial, "Execution drug transparency needed."
The writing of another chapter in Texas’ troubled history with the death penalty is underway, and is being shaped by questions about the state’s supply of lethal injection drugs and the right of the public to know what is being used in its name.
Last week, State District Court Judge Suzanne Covington in Austin delivered a limited victory for transparency and the rights of defendants when she ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to tell the attorneys of two death row inmates the source of the new supply of pentobarbital it plans to use in upcoming lethal injections. The state had argued secrecy was needed to protect the safety of the maker of the pentobarbital; Covington did not order the state to publicly disclose the supplier’s name.
The next morning a three-judge panel of the 3rd Texas Court of Appeals rightly upheld Covington’s ruling. Friday afternoon, however, the Texas Supreme Court stopped Covington’s order from taking effect until justices could study the issue further.
Given the need to honor constitutional protections and transparency, we see no compelling reason why the state shouldn’t reveal information about its supply of pentobarbital.
"Give source of execution drug," is the editorial in today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Texas has been adamant in carrying out death sentences and has executed 512 people since 1982. The state’s power in these cases is extreme.
It is incumbent on a society bent on putting offenders to death to allow them wide latitude in fighting for their lives in well-ordered courts.
They may have been convicted of horrendous crimes, but the state must not lower itself to their level by inflicting cruel pain on them with improperly prepared execution drugs.
American-Statesman Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Ken Herman writes, "Drugs, death and the OU game."
Thanks to good work by Katie Fretland of the Colorado Independent, a nonprofit news operation, we know that even matters of life and death are not immune from lawyerly humor.
Fretland recently wrote about states’ ongoing problems in procuring execution drugs. She got 172 pages of emails sparked by Texas Assistant Attorney General Laura Grant Turbin’s January 2011 request for advice from assistant AGs around the nation on using different drugs for executions.
“Records show Oklahoma officials wanted perks for helping Texas in search for scarce lethal injections,” said the headline.
We’re not talking about real perks, really wanted. We’re talking about email humor related to executions. “Disturbing flippancy,” Fretland called it.
Gurney humor, I’d call it.
Earlier coverage of Texas lethal injection issues begins with the preceding post.