Judges in Oklahoma and Texas ruled this week that prison officials must disclose the identities of lethal injection drug suppliers, two victories for transparency advocates in the growing legal battle contesting the veil of secrecy over execution procedures.
A Texas judge ordered on Thursday the state Department of Criminal Justice reveal the supplier of a new batch of lethal injection drugs, which are planned to be used to execute two inmates next month.
Just a day before, Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish ruled that a statute protecting execution drug suppliers' anonymity is unconstitutional. Parrish said the secrecy statute violates inmates' due process rights.
Judge Parrish’s ruling could further delay the executions of two Oklahoma inmates, Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner, both currently scheduled to die next month. The state already pushed back their execution dates once, after officials were unable to procure the necessary lethal injection drugs.
Since European pharmaceutical firms stopped selling drugs to prisons, citing objections to the death penalty, states have turned to shadier options to meet their capital punishment needs, including poorly-regulated compounding pharmacies. Attorneys for death row inmates say secrecy statutes make it impossible to know whether drugs procured from these suppliers meet standards commensurate with the constitution—that they won’t force inmates to endure cruel and unusual punishment.
The news from Oklahoma and Texas comes amid a recent wave of legal challenges related to anonymous execution drug suppliers. Earlier this month, a federal judge ordered Louisiana officials disclose the manufacturer and supplier of the state’s lethal injection drugs. And Georgia’s Supreme Court is considering a challenge to the state’s secrecy statute.