Pressure Builds For Additional Transparency In Texas After Oklahoma Execution

Apr 30, 2014

Following a botched execution in Oklahoma, anti-death penalty groups and attorneys are once again calling on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide full transparency in the state's execution process.

Similar to a federal case in Texas, a group of Oklahoma death row inmates and their attorneys sued the State of Oklahoma to disclose the name of the compounding pharmacy used to make the state’s execution drugs. One of the drugs that Oklahoma uses is midazolam, which during the execution Tuesday failed to work the way it was intended, making the inmate conscious for his execution.

This incident has groups like the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and its executive director, Kristen Houle, calling for a halt to all executions.

“Until we have guarantees that the lethal injection process is being carried out in a transparent and fair manner,” Houle said.

Both Texas and Oklahoma withhold the name of the pharmacy that makes their execution drugs. Austin attorney Maurie Levin is awaiting a hearing before the Texas Supreme Court for this disclosure.

“We are in the middle of litigating this," Levin said. "It is ironic that Texas is actively pursuing what they claim is the need to keep this very information secret."

While the drugs used to execute death row inmates in Oklahoma are different than what is currently being used in Texas, the TDCJ does have midazolam on hand. Levin said this execution in Oklahoma emphasizes a need for more transparency.

“They’re not using the exact same drug, but the drug that was used last night is a drug that Texas has in their possession," Levin said. "And given that Texas is now asserting that they have the right to keep all information about executions secret, we have no idea if or when they will turn to the drug that was used last night.”

The TDCJ has recently requested the attorney general's office make an open records ruling on whether they were required to release the name of the pharmacy. In recent months, Attorney General Greg Abbott has stated that the process needs to be completely transparent.