Texas officials have decided to keep the source of the drug used for lethal injections secret. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott reportedly told officials at the Department of Criminal Justice they must “withhold the identifying information of the pharmacy and pharmacist” responsible for synthesizing the drug.
Officials at the state’s Department of Criminal Justice made the case that the drugs’ source must be kept secret as to insure the safety of their suppliers. They fear a small, unprotected pharmacy would not be prepared to handle the large and potentially violent repercussions of having their identities made public.
A threat assessment signed by Texas Department of Public Safety director Steven McCraw warned that pharmacies selling drugs used in executions face “a substantial threat of physical harm.” It added, “Pharmacies by design are easily accessible to the public and present a soft target to violent attacks.”
Abbott’s decision came as a surprise to many Texans, owing to the fact that he had argued against measures to keep the drug’s source a secret on three separate occasions. The AP reported that in 2012 Abbott rejected similar safety concerns and argued “the benefits of transparent government outweigh the prison system’s objection.”
It is unclear what violence could await suppliers and unspecified whom it may come from, however Texas lawmakers have decided that for now it is a risk that they are not willing to take.
According to reports, death penalty states have had difficulty finding suppliers for the drug after many European based manufacturers refused to sell the drug for the purposes of lethal injection. It is possible that any backlash against the existing supplier could discourage any future pharmacy from manufacturing and selling the drug to the prisons. If this were to happen, it is possible that death penalty states may run out of places to purchase the drug altogether.
There is no specific Texas law that requires officials to disclose the source of the drug, however many have speculated that it is likely Abbott’s decision will be appealed. South Texas College of Law professor Charles Rhodes told AP reporters that if Abbott’s decision is appealed, it could potentially go all the way up to the Supreme Court. There, he said “the courts will have the final say.”
Follow Patrick Kane on Twitter @PatVKane.