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Texas Finds Drugs for Executions Before Current Batch Expires

Texas has obtained a new supply of the drug it uses for executions with just days to go before the current batch expires — but it won't identify the source.

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said the prison system now has enough pentobarbital to carry out all scheduled lethal injections — three in April and two in May.

"We are not disclosing the identity of the pharmacy because of previous, specific threats of serious physical harm made against businesses and their employees that have provided drugs used in the lethal injection process," spokesman Jason Clark said on Wednesday afternoon.

The Texas Attorney General's office has previously ordered information about the source of execution drugs to be released, but prison officials plan to ask the state lawyers for a new ruling that would allow them to keep those details confidential this time.

The state's existing stockpile was set to expire April 1.

The first prisoner scheduled to be executed after that is Tommy Sells, who was sentenced to death for the 1999 stabbing murder of a 13-year-old girl and who allegedly confessed to a dozen other murders committed during two decades as a drifter.

Sells' lawyer, Alan Futrell, said he would object to any secrecy.

“We’re going to press pretty hard for them to be more transparent.," he said. "We don’t know what they’ve got or where it came from or what it’s made of. And we should know that."

Prison systems have found pentobarbital hard to come by. The manufacturer has refused to sell it for executions, so some states have turned to compounding pharmacies to make the deadly doses.

Is Lethal Injection Painful? 1:46

But legal and public-relations headaches have spurred at least two specialty pharmacies to refuse to provide execution chemicals, so prison authorities try to keep their suppliers under wraps.

Yet some states are still having trouble purchasing the needed drugs.

Oklahoma revealed this week it was out of pentobarbital and vecuronium and was considering changing its protocol — prompting an appeals court to order a one-month delay for two executions.

— Tracy Connor
Image: Tommy Sells
Texas says it has obtained enough pentobarbital to execute child killer Tommy Sells and four other death-row inmates after its current batch expires. Texas Department of Criminal Justice