Supreme Court Rejects Case Accusing Texas Of Botching Executions

Anders Hagstrom | Justice Reporter

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a case Monday alleging Texas has repeatedly botched its lethal injections by using aging drugs, effectively siding with the state.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of several death row inmates in 2013, alleges that the aging drugs that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) uses for executions could cause inmates to feel pain during their procedures, Governing reported. At that time, Texas had just begun using compounded pentobarbital in its executions, a drug which the TDCJ claims is perfectly safe. Attorneys, however, argued that the supply was becoming old and potentially ineffective.

“Texas’ current drug supply is so old, using it to carry out executions amounts to scientific experimentation, on human beings,” said Maurie Levin, one of the attorneys representing prisoners in the case. “Unfortunately, I expect we will see increasingly problematic executions — which will only highlight, again, the consequences of Texas’ commitment to secrecy above all else.”

The Monday SCOTUS decision brings an end to the question, and Texas will continue using pentobarbital. The state has executed three people in 2018, but Republican Gov. Greg Abbott commuted the sentence of one death row inmate just minutes before his scheduled execution Thursday.

The inmate, 39-year-old Thomas “Bart” Whitaker, is convicted of the 2003 murders of his mother and brother as well as the shooting of his father. His father, Kent Whitaker credits his faith in Christ for allowing him to forgive his son, begging a parole board to lower Bart’s sentence to life in prison. The parole board unanimously agreed and Gov. Abbott officially commuted his sentence on Feb. 22, the day he was scheduled to be executed.

SCOTUS took up consideration of the lawsuit the day after Whitaker was spared. Justices rejected it Monday with no comment.

“Compounded pentobarbital has been used by the TDCJ for many years without incident,” TDCJ spokesman Jeremy Desel said Monday. “The drugs are tested for potency and purity.”

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