Texas has been fighting to keep a secret for years now – the name of the pharmacy that supplies its execution drugs. But late last week, after a lengthy court battle, the state Supreme Court refused to grant an appeal of a lower court ruling that the state must reveal where it gets these drugs.
Jolie McCullough, a criminal justice reporter for the Texas Tribune, says the case about disclosing the state’s pentobarbital supplier goes back to 2014. Despite last week’s decision, it’s possible the case isn’t over yet.
“There’s a 15-day window for the state to file for a rehearing, which the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has said that it will do,” McCullough says. “But that’s again with the Texas Supreme Court, so it seems unlikely that the Supreme Court will change its mind.”
McCullough says the state argued against disclosing the name of the supplier because of potential harm to the pharmacy.
“They’re thinking that people who don’t agree with the death penalty or don’t agree with executions will retaliate against these pharmacists,” she says. “The courts have found that there was no substantial reasoning for that, that there was no probability that that would happen.”
The state argued that there have been protests at a pharmacy that was revealed in 2013.
“But the courts basically said that’s not enough to constitute a threat of physical harm,” McCullough says.
This case is only a fight to disclose the pharmacy the state used in 2014 – not necessarily its current supplier.
“In 2015, the state actually passed a law that shields all of this information,” she says. “So any current supplier is by law secret to the public. We’re not allowed to know anyone involved in a Texas execution, from the supplier to the person who’s inserting the needle. But it wasn’t a retroactive law.”
Written by Jen Rice.