FEATURED POST

Did Texas execute an innocent man? Film revisits a haunting question.

Image
Texans will have an opportunity to revisit a question that should haunt anyone who believes in the integrity of our criminal justice system: Did our state execute an innocent man? 
The new film “Trial by Fire” tells the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was sentenced to death for setting a fire to his home in Corsicana that killed his three young daughters in 1991. The film is based on an investigative story by David Grann that appeared in the New Yorker in 2009, five years after Willingham was executed over his vociferous protestations of innocence.
In my experience of serving 8 years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and 4 years as a state district judge in Travis County, the Willingham case stands out to me for many of the same reasons it stood out to filmmaker Edward Zwick, who calls it a veritable catalogue of everything that’s wrong with the criminal justice system and, especially, the death penalty. False testimony, junk science, a jailhouse informant, and ineffe…

Texas prison system has drugs for 23 executions

After prodding from Texas AG, prison system says it has enough drugs to execute 23 inmates

Texas prison officials disclosed Friday they have enough lethal drugs to execute as many as 23 people.

In response to this week's opinion from the state attorney general's office that said the Texas Department of Criminal Justice could not withhold information about the drug supply, the department said it currently has 46 2.5-gram vials of pentobarbital. A 5-gram dose — about 3.4 ounces — is the 1st lethal drug used during each execution in Huntsville, according to Texas execution procedures.

The prison agency said it had similar supplies of 2 other drugs also administered to condemned inmates. It did not, though, identify suppliers of the lethal drugs, which the opinion also had addressed.

Executions also involve 100 milligrams of pancuronium bromide and 140 milliequivalents of potassium chloride. Texas has 290 10-milligram vials of the pancuronium bromide — 10 are required per execution — and 737 20-milliequivalent vials of potassium chloride — 7 per punishment.

The department's written procedures call for a matching set of drugs and syringes "in case unforeseen events make their use necessary." But in a brief statement emailed to reporters late Friday, the agency said a backup set of lethal drugs for executions "is not actually prepared, but an additional dose is available if needed."

The attorney general's opinion, dated Monday, was an answer to public information requests filed earlier this year by the Austin American-Statesman and British newspaper The Guardian.

Prison officials had argued that releasing the information could be harmful to employees and provide death penalty opponents a way to harass the drug suppliers with the hope firms would refuse to do business with the state.

"We find your arguments as to how disclosure of the requested drug quantities would result in the disruption of the execution process or otherwise interfere with law enforcement to be too speculative," Sean Opperman, an assistant attorney general, wrote in the opinion.

The prison agency had 30 days to comply with the opinion or to challenge it in court. The status of the supplier question was not immediately clear.

Opperman said that, while the attorney general's office "acknowledge(s) the department's concerns," the corrections department didn't show how disclosure of the information "would create a substantial threat of physical harm to any individual."

Department officials previously had indicated they had a sufficient supply to handle upcoming executions. At least five are scheduled for this summer, including one early next month.

Last year, one of the drugs Texas had used in the process, sodium thiopental, became unavailable when its European supplier bowed to pressure from death penalty opponents and stopped making it. No other vendor could be found, so the drug was replaced by pentobarbital.

The physical effects of pentobarbital on condemned inmates have not been noticeable during the executions, but the financial cost to the state has risen considerably. Prison officials put the cost of the previous mixture at $83.35. It's now $1286.86, with the higher cost primarily due to pentobarbital.

Source: Associated Press, May 19, 2012

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

Saudi Arabia celebrates end of Ramadan by beheading Asian drug smuggler

Another prisoner executed in Belarus

When We Kill - Everything you think you know about the death penalty is wrong.

Japan's detention center gives foreign media a look

August Execution Set For Florida Killer Who Targeted Gay Men

Saudi Arabia: Authorities must not resort to use of death penalty against protester arrested aged 13

Death sentence for South Carolina man who killed his 5 children and dumped their bodies

Gay rights across the globe: marriage to the death penalty

Louisiana: Death penalty abolitionists increasingly optimistic

One of the ISIS 'Beatles' says he's sorry. Will confessions save these fighters from death row?