Friday, March 28, 2014

Update: Judge orders state to disclose supplier of death drugs

On the same day that the State of Texas murdered yet another inmate, a state District Judge ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to release the name of the supplier of the latest batch of lethal drugs.

Anthony Doyle was strapped down and a lethal dose of pentobarbital procured from an as-of-yet undisclosed supplier was pumped into his veins. With no knowledge of where the drug came from and who manufactured it, there is no way to know whether or not the drug was what it was purported to be. There is no way to know whether it worked as advertised.

The state argued during a hearing earlier in the day that the identities of drug suppliers should be kept confidential because of alleged threats made to suppliers of lethal drugs in Texas and in other states. Last year's supplier, a compounding pharmacy in The Woodlands, decided not to supply the state with pentobarbital after a spate of bad publicity and alleged threats. State officials are worried that should the name of the supplier be made public that the pool of available suppliers would dry up due to bad publicity and threats.

To which I say, so what? No one is forcing a compounding pharmacy to become complicit with state-sponsored murder. That is a business decision made by the owners of the pharmacies. But if they are willing to prostitute themselves for the public's money, then they need to act like big boys and take their lumps in the media. Not only does the public have a right to know what their money is being spent on, the men and women on death row have a right to know what's being pumped into their veins and who's supplying it.

There is a reason for the negative reaction of the public when the identity of one of these compounding pharmacies is made public. Support for the death penalty is waning. Now there are still way too many folks stuck back in the Middle Ages when it comes to their notions of how the criminal (in)justice system should work, but more and more people are turning against the death penalty in light of the number of exonerations of death row inmates we've seen over the last few years.

We like to think our criminal (in)justice system is the best in the world (or at the least worst), but there is no way to ensure that an innocent man isn't convicted. If you've ever sat through voir dire you know that prosecutors and judges love to tell prospective jurors that proof beyond a reasonable doubt isn't nearly as high a burden as we'd like to think it is. They both do all they can to minimize the importance of the burden of proof.

And, thanks to this relaxed attitude there are innocent men and women in prison. There are innocent men and women on the nation's death rows. There has been at least one innocent man, Cameron Willingham, executed in Texas.

Innocent men and women can be released from behind bars - although in many cases decades have been thrown away because of prosecutorial misconduct and jurors who just didn't give a damn. But you can't release an innocent man who's been executed. That is the ultimate finality.

Since we can't guarantee that an innocent man won't be convicted, we need to take a long, hard look at our obsession with killing inmates. One innocent man who loses his life at the hands of the state is one too many. Judges, attorneys and juries are all flawed. No one should face death in such a system.

1 comment:

Lee said...

My own research suggests that in out United States in the past 30 years that 13 people have been innocent and executed.

Oh, TDCJ just got an emergency order to keep it in the hush.