MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

April 3, 2014

Scant evidence of threats to execution drugmakers

DALLAS (AP)  — Texas prison officials have offered scant evidence to support their claim that pharmacies that supply the state with execution drugs would be in danger of violence if their identities were made public.

If those officials are investigating the threats, including a suggestion a truck bomb could blow up a such a pharmacy, as a serious risk to the safety of the pharmacies or their employees, they refuse to acknowledge doing so.

The Associated Press could find no evidence that any such investigations are underway in Texas, and police in the community where one such pharmacy is located said they are not concerned.

In neighboring Oklahoma, the attorney general said Thursday he was investigating such a threat, but several other law enforcement agencies told the AP his office has never mentioned it.

Instead, anti-death penalty advocates believe Texas and other states are trumping up the possibility of violence to avoid having to disclose their name of suppliers, ensuring they can keep buying the drugs they need to put condemned inmates to death.

“If these are the types of threats that the departments are hearing and they’re not providing the information to back it up, it’s just sort of irresponsible and playing on people’s fear,” said Jen Moreno, an attorney at the University of California-Berkeley who has represented death row inmates.

“It’s using the fear of something tragic and horrible that happened before. It’s a sort of fear mongering.”

As major drugmakers, many based in Europe, have stopped selling pentobarbital and other substances used in lethal injections to U.S. corrections agencies because they oppose the death penalty, Texas and other states are increasingly forced to rely on compounding pharmacies for the drugs.

Years of protests and public relations campaigns by anti-death penalty advocates have made many of these pharmacies wary of selling execution drugs because of the negative publicity that often follows.

After a suburban Houston compounding pharmacy was identified last fall as the source of Texas’ supply of pentobarbital, it demanded the prison system return the drugs and accused officials of placing the business “in the middle of a firestorm.”

“I, and my staff ... do not have the time to deal with the constant inquiries from the press, the hate mail and messages, as well as getting dragged into the state’s lawsuit with the prisoners, and possible future lawsuits,” wrote Dr. Jasper Lovoi, owner of The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy, in a letter dated Oct. 4.

Spokesmen for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Texas Attorney General’s office would not answer questions this week about whether they are investigating any threats to The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy or any other pharmacy that might sell lethal injection drugs. A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety said he could locate no such investigation taking place.

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