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Attorneys Ask Justice Dept. To Investigate Texas Execution Drugs

Attorneys for two condemned inmates say the state has been breaking federal laws for more than 25 years.
Photo courtesy of Andres Rueda/via Flickr
Attorneys for two condemned inmates say the state has been breaking federal laws for more than 25 years.

Lawyers for two condemned Texas prisoners are asking the U.S. Justice Department to investigate how the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has obtained drugs used in executions.

Their argument hinges on what sounds like a technicality: the address used to register the state's drug supply.

Attorneys Maurie Levin, an adjunct professor at the University of Texas Law School, and Sandra Babcock, a clinical law professor at Northwestern, sent a letter today to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, requesting an investigation into whether the TDCJ broke federal law by using an out-of-date address on records dealing with execution drugs.

In a statement, the attorneys say TDCJ...

"...has likely violated federal law by failing to notify the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for over twenty-five years that the DEA registration number used to purchase the drugs used in executions is registered to a nonexistent hospital."

A lawsuit on behalf of death row inmates Cleve Foster and Humberto Leal was filed yesterday in Travis County District Court. In that suit, lawyers argue that the TDCJ violated state law by failing to have an open process in finding a replacement for one of the execution drugs. The state announced March 16 that it would use pentobarbital in place of sodium thiopental, after the drug's only domestic producer stopped making it, and supplies became scarce.  Foster's execution is scheduled for April 5.

Texas Letter to Hon Eric Holder

Texas Letter to Hon Eric Holder Exhibits

Matt Largey is the Projects Editor at KUT. That means doing a little bit of everything: editing reporters, producing podcasts, reporting, training, producing live events and always being on the lookout for things that make his ears perk up. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mattlargey.
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