News Roundup: Texas Supreme Court Will Decide Whether State Must Reveal Supplier Of Execution Drug

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelJanuary 24, 2019 12:46 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

The Texas Supreme Court will decide in the next few months whether the state must reveal the identity of an execution drug supplier.

Justices heard oral arguments Wednesday. Here’s a quote from the proceedings:

“We’ll hear argument in 17.5.52 Texas Department of Criminal Justice against Levin; Justices Guzman and Blacklock are not sitting in this case.”

This case dates back to 2014. That year, three lawyers who represent death row inmates sued the state to learn the name of a pharmacy that supplies pentobarbital. That’s the sole drug used in Texas executions. The lawyers argued it was necessary to know the supplier to ensure the drugs were safe.

Phillip Durst represents this group of attorneys.

“My clients had clients on death row who were facing new longer execution times, botched executions, and the idea was these are lightly regulated pharmacies, and what they said is ‘purity’ and what they say is ‘toxicity’ is not necessarily accurate,” Durst says.

Ari Cuenin with the Texas Attorney General’s Office represented the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He argued the pharmacy would be endangered if named.

“It is a soft target; its only defense is anonymity,” Cuenin says.

Previously, lower courts have not sided with the state, saying, instead, it would be okay to release the pharmacy’s name.

Democrats will chair more than a third of the committees in the Texas House this legislative session. That’s closer to the Democratic makeup of the House than are the Senate committee assignments, for which Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick favored his Republican colleagues for the jobs. Ben Philpott with KUT News says it’s an indication that House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, has a different leadership style than Patrick.

“This is him saying ‘Yes, I do believe the Democrats in the minority should have a seat at the table when we’re discussing these very important issues.’ Even some of the committees that Democrats have been put in charge of – these are not inconsequential committees like Homeland Security and Public Safety, Public Health, the Transportation Committee. You can definitely say this is Bonnen planting his flag and saying ‘I’m bringing everyone to the table; I want everyone to have a voice, despite the criticisms from Republicans. I’m going to lead as Joe Straus led when he was speaker, and inviting everyone to the conversation,’ ” Philpott says.

Bonnen also named El Paso Democrat Joe Moody to serve as speaker pro tem.

Blue Origin successfully launched its New Shepard Rocket in West Texas Wednesday. It was the 10th successful launch for the private space company, and the fourth for this specific craft.

New Shepard contained eight NASA-sponsored research and technology payloads. Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, plans to take passengers into space by the end of the year.