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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Texas Is Making Its Own Execution Drugs, Oklahoma Inmate Alleges

Many death penalty states have struggled to obtain a lethal injection drug that Texas has consistently been able to procure. In a filing Thursday in Oklahoma, lawyers provided evidence that Texas sold pentobarbital to Virginia in August.

The state of Texas is making its own execution drugs and has sold them to at least 1 other death penalty state, an inmate facing execution in Oklahoma alleges in a court filing Thursday. His attorneys point to documents that show the Texas Department of Criminal Justice sold pentobarbital to Virginia in late August.

Pentobarbital is a sedative that many death penalty states, including Oklahoma, have claimed is impossible for them to get their hands on. As a result, some states have turned to midazolam, a drug that critics argue is significantly less effective. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of midazolam in executions this June.

The records submitted as part of the new filing show that Virginia received 150 milligrams of the drug. Under the heading "Name of Supplier," the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is listed.

The labels do not identify the pharmacy that prepared the drug. However, the lawyers for the Oklahoma inmate state that the labels were created by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which they also allege "is compounding or producing pentobarbital within its department for use in executions."

On Friday, Texas confirmed to BuzzFeed News that it sent the execution drugs to Virginia. A spokesman said it was to repay Virginia for having given Texas drugs in the past.

"In 2013, the Virginia Department of Corrections gave the Texas Department of Criminal Justice pentobarbital to use as a back up drug in an execution," spokesman Jason Clark said. "Virginia's drugs were not used."

"The agency earlier this year was approached by officials in Virginia and we gave them 3 vials of pentobarbital that [were] legally purchased from a pharmacy. The agency has not provided compounded drugs to any other state. Texas law prohibits the TDCJ from disclosing the identity of the supplier of lethal injection drugs."

In a statement, the Virginia Department of Corrections said it intended to use the pentobarbital next week.

"The Department did recently obtain pentobarbital from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice," spokesperson Lisa Kinney said. "That pentobarbital is scheduled to be used in the Oct. 1 execution of Alfredo Prieto. There was no payment involved."

Kinney added that questions about who made the drug would have to be directed to Texas.

The lawyers raise these issues to make the argument that Oklahoma could avoid the use of the controversial midazolam drug in its executions. It could do so, they argue, by purchasing pentobarbital from Texas, like Virginia, or by "compounding or producing pentobarbital in the same manner as does TDCJ."

States have struggled to obtain execution drugs for years after makers enacted more stringent guidelines to keep them away from states that would use them for executions.

The idea of a state-run lab making its own death penalty drugs is something Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster raised last year, although many wondered how it could be done. Missouri, like Texas, has had no trouble obtaining pentobarbital.

Source: BuzzFeedNews.com, Sept. 25, 2015


Texas shared its execution drugs with Virginia

Texas prison officials acknowledged on Friday that they have supplied at least 1 other state with execution drugs - but the original source of those drugs remains shrouded in secrecy.

The disclosure came the day after a death-row inmate claimed in court papers that Texas is now making its own lethal injection drugs and had shared vials of them with Virginia.

In a statement, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed it gave three vials of pentobarbital to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

"The drugs have been tested for purity and will expire in April 2016," the statement said.

"State law prohibits the agency from disclosing the identity of the supplier of lethal injection drugs," it said.

Several death penalty states have passed laws to keep the source of their execution chemicals confidential to protect pharmacies that mix them from negative publicity and protests.

Defense lawyers say the secrecy rules also prevent inmates from investigating whether the drugs that will be used to kill them are unadulterated.

States across the nation have struggled to obtain execution drugs because pharmaceutical companies have been pressured to stop selling them to prisons for lethal injections.

Virginia has not executed anyone since the 2013 electrocution of Robert Gleason. Texas, on the other hand, has put to death 10 prisoners this year.

The details of its shipment to Virginia were first revealed in a court filing by Richard Glossip, who is set to be executed in Oklahoma on Sept. 30 barring another last-minute reprieve.

Oklahoma uses a drug called midazolam, which inmates say does not protect them from an excruciating death. Glossip argued that the state could use pentobarbital since Texas appears to be able to supply it.

It's not clear if the vials sent to Virginia were in fact mixed in-house by Texas or by an outside compounding pharmacy.

Source: WSLS news, Sept. 25, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

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