A federal appeals court on Wednesday threw out a ruling requiring the Texas prison system to disclose more information about where it gets lethal-injection drugs, reversing a judge who had halted an upcoming execution.
Only hours before the appellate decision, a lower-court judge issued a temporary injunction halting the execution of Tommy Lynn Sells, a convicted serial killer who was set to die Thursday.
The case originally included Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas, another inmate scheduled to be put to death next week. But the appellate ruling affected only Sells.
Texas officials have insisted the identity of the drug supplier must be kept secret to protect the company from threats of violence and that the stock of the sedative pentobarbital falls within the acceptable ranges of potency.
Defense attorneys say they must have the name of the supplier so they can verify the quality of the drug and spare condemned inmates from unconstitutional pain and suffering.
In the lower-court ruling, U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide defense attorneys with details about the supplier and how the drug was tested.
Lawyers for the state appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, saying the arguments from the inmates' attorneys "are nothing more than a calculated attempt to postpone their executions."
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected similar arguments about execution secrecy in a Missouri case, and the condemned prisoner was put to death.
Gilmore's ruling "honors the importance of transparency in the execution process," said Maurie Levin, an attorney for the inmates. "And the order makes it clear this last-minute litigation and stays of execution would not be necessary if (the prison agency) had not ignored the rule of law and tried to shield this information from the public and the light of day."
Texas prisons spokesman Robert Hurst said the agency had no comment because the matter was still in court.