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Texas' top prosecutor: Drug source can be secret

DALLAS (AP) - Texas law enforcement officials are refusing to say what threats were behind a key letter that led the state attorney general to reverse his long-held position that the identity of Texas' execution drug provider should be made public.

The Texas Department of Public Safety's one-page letter was cited Thursday by the Texas Attorney General's Office, which ruled state prison officials could keep its provider a secret. On Friday, the Department of Public Safety called any details about threats "law enforcement sensitive information," refusing to say if any pharmacies were in danger or what the agency was doing to investigate.

Anti-death penalty advocates have accused Texas and other states of trumping up threats to avoid disclosing their providers. So far, state and local law enforcement agencies have said little publicly about why they feel pharmacies are in danger.

The state prison system has long argued that safety concerns required it to keep suppliers' information private. Three times, Attorney General Greg Abbott's office refused the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's requests, saying the agency hadn't done enough to prove a threat.

In one of those opinions, issued two years ago, the office said that "while we acknowledge the department's concerns, we find you have not established disclosure of the responsive information would create a substantial threat of physical harm to any individual."

But in Thursday's opinion reversing that position, Abbott's office cited Department of Public Safety director Steven McCraw's letter as proof that law enforcement believed a threat existed.

TDCJ requested the March 7 letter from McCraw, DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said. The letter says there were threats made against the Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy, a Houston-area facility that was identified in a previous open-records request as the state supplier.

"Pharmacies by design are easily accessible to the public and present a soft target to violent attacks," McCraw said in his letter.

The letter was key in the attorney general's reversal. Its Thursday opinion says it had to defer to DPS, "the law enforcement experts charged with assessing threats to public safety."

Abbott and McCraw declined to be interviewed Friday. Jason Clark, a TDCJ spokesman, did not return messages seeking comment Friday.

Vinger told The Associated Press in April that he was unaware of any investigations of threats against that pharmacy, and the local sheriff's office responsible for the pharmacy said it had not investigated any threats there, either. On Friday, Vinger declined to comment on whether DPS was aware of any threats or had conducted any investigation, saying in an email that it was "law enforcement sensitive information."

Unlike some other states arguing in court about drug secrecy, Texas law doesn't specifically say whether prison officials must disclose where they buy lethal injection drugs.

Death penalty states have been scrambling to find new sources of drugs after several drugmakers, including many based in Europe, refused to sell drugs for use in lethal injections. That's led several states to compounding pharmacies, which are not as heavily regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as more conventional pharmacies.

Courts up to the U.S. Supreme Court have ultimately not halted an execution based on a state's refusal to reveal its drug supplier. The secrecy argument also was used ahead of a bungled execution last month in Oklahoma, though that inmate's faulty veins, not the execution drug, were cited as the likely culprit.

Maurie Levin, a prominent capital defense attorney, said Friday that she intended to challenge Abbott's opinion in court as part of ongoing litigation. She said McCraw's letter seemed "very generalized and not supported by any documentation."

"It is hard to accept a decision that is based on that kind of unsupported assertion, particularly when we're talking about matters this important," Levin said.

Join the discussion

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gmartin997 May 30 2014 at 7:05 PM

DEATH PENALTY VICTIMS?? I take exception to that reference. Criminals being executed for murder are not victims.

Flag Reply +98 rate up
9 replies
imscottyurnot May 30 2014 at 6:33 PM

Why not just give them a hot shot of heroin? Many junkies who over dose are found with the needle still in their arms. The cops have an unlimited suppy of the drug. Take it off the street and use it on the slime on death row.

Flag Reply +78 rate up
8 replies
Steve-a-rino May 30 2014 at 6:26 PM

Why all the concern about the killer? Murder victims get no such choice - most are killed in the most evil ways, for little or no reason, no chance to appeal. Just shoot the bastards - death row should be empty, not full!

Flag Reply +76 rate up
11 replies
gianni465 May 30 2014 at 7:47 PM

i have a simpler solution: back of the head, point pistol,pull trigger.

Flag Reply +60 rate up
8 replies
ROSEHILL YORKIES May 30 2014 at 7:12 PM

They want the information so they can harrass and badger and protest whatever company is providing the drug.....forget it......go find another cause to champion.

Flag Reply +57 rate up
4 replies
SRJimVal2 May 30 2014 at 9:08 PM

Who cares what method they use if they are positive about the crime and especially when there is admission of guilt, then the penalty should be swift and done and over. What's the purpose of keeping someone waiting for years. Get it over already. Cruel and usual is making the wait longer. Get it done

Flag Reply +44 rate up
4 replies
Nanu-Nanu May 30 2014 at 9:07 PM

ACLU and anti-death do not need to know who the providers are.

Flag Reply +38 rate up
2 replies
miserblofagain Nanu-Nanu May 30 2014 at 11:41 PM

Sure WE do.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
7 replies
Dave Nanu-Nanu May 31 2014 at 8:14 AM

Screw the ACLU and anti-death whackos!

Flag Reply +23 rate up
bigg1957 May 30 2014 at 7:19 PM

One little ole 45 from my 1911 is pretty cheap and will do the trick. Too bad it's too effective, no pain involved, just dead.

Flag Reply +35 rate up
4 replies
idodeco2 May 30 2014 at 6:42 PM

Mercy yes, there's no reason at all to disclosure where these drugs come from to the public in general. None of the general population need to go buy them, so I would think some privacy and discretion in disclosure would be necessary and prudent.

Flag Reply +31 rate up
2 replies
rusty9354 idodeco2 May 30 2014 at 10:10 PM

so use all the illegal drugs that are on the street. they seem to be doing the job and the weirdest thing is no one is making it a crime

Flag Reply +1 rate up
pcfriar66 idodeco2 May 30 2014 at 11:18 PM

Sorry, it is the people's "right to know". This is a government of the people. Government hs no right to keep secrets from the governed. There has been no indication of violent reprisal against any pharmacy. Any non-violent reprisal, such as a boycott, led and encouraged by an anti death penalty group, such as the Roman Catholic Church, would be completely legal, as freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Also, no catholic pharmacy should, in good conscience, provide these druigs. (ditto for abortion drugs)

Flag Reply 0 rate up
jt.c22 May 30 2014 at 7:02 PM

TX just loves to kill people... regardless if guilt or innocent.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
19 replies
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