US judge halts Texas executions over drug supplier information

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 02, 2014 1:41 PM

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge has temporarily suspended the execution of two inmates planned for this month in Texas, saying the state has hidden information about the supplier of the drug to be used in the lethal injections.

"The court stays plaintiffs' scheduled executions until the information identified is produced," U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore wrote in Houston in a temporary injunction issued on Wednesday.

The decision is part of a series of court rulings in recent weeks that have mandated states to release information about drugs used for lethal injection, saying that keeping the information secret violates due process protections of the U.S. Constitution.

Several states have struggled to obtain drugs for executions, while many pharmaceutical companies, mostly in Europe, have imposed sales bans because they object to having medications made for other purposes used in lethal injections.

The injunction applies to inmates Tommy Lynn Sells, set to be executed on Thursday for the murder of a 13-year-old girl, and Ramiro Hernandez whose execution was set for April 9 for a rape and murder that took place in 1997.

"While the state has provided plaintiffs information about the process by which they will be executed, it has masked information about the product that will kill them," the injunction said.

Texas, which has executed more prisoners than any other state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, said last month it had obtained a new batch of execution drugs, without saying where the drugs had come from.

A Texas state judge ordered the department of corrections on March 27 to disclose the name of the supplier of drugs used in executions.

Texas prison officials have said they want the supplier to remain secret to protect it for possible harm.

(Additional reporting by David Bailey in Minneappolis; editing by Gunna Dickson)