Saturday, October 23, 2010

TDCJ offers bogus argument to conceal info on lethal injection drug

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is making an incredibly disingenuous, bogus argument to try to conceal whether they have sufficient quantities of a drug used in lethal injections to continue Texas' historic pace on executions, reports the Dallas News Crime Blog:
Patricia Fleming, assistant general counsel for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said in a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott that prison employees are under "a substantial threat of physical harm." She refers to the "inherently volatile" nature of executions as a reason to withhold information about the amount of drugs available in Texas for lethal injections.

The use of various drugs for executions has been an issue for death penalty opponents for years. In recent months some states have postponed executions because of a shortage. TDCJ spokesmen have answered queries about Texas' supply of the drugs in vague terms, but the department does not want to reveal specifics. Fleming's letter is part of a request for Abbott to rule on disclosure.

"The TDCJ has been lucky that those gathered or picketing outside the Huntsville Unit on a scheduled execution date have never fired weapons or even used knives, but both of these events are very real possibilities and amount to more than a generalized and speculative fear of harassment or retribution," the letter reads. "If the requestor published how much sodium thiopental we currently have and when it expires, this would operate to inflame an already volatile situation..."
Under Texas' open records precedents, TDCJ would only get to keep this information secret if there is a specific threat, not just a "generalized or speculative fear" that release of information might create security problems. But "generalized and speculative" is precisely how I'd characterize the idea that the handful of nonviolent protesters who show up at executions, who have never in all Texas' history engaged in violence, might do so because this information is released.

Indeed, I can't tell how this particular data would increase risk at all - why would violence be more likely if people knew how much of the drug TDCJ has in stock or when it expires? That information creates no specific vulnerability for employees and I fail to understand how a question about inventory would "inflame" people one way or another. Other states have released the same information without negative consequence. The argument makes no sense and the Attorney General's open records division should order the information released.

MORE: From the Austin Statesman.

14 comments:

Hook Em Horns said...

Just like Rick Perry's "secret" schedule which was supposedly kept that way to "protect" him from harm, this is another attempt by Texas government to keep the truth from us. This is disgusting and self-serving from a government that is anything except of, by and for the people.

Texas voters do not seem to mind though. We are hell bent on giving "his highness" another term as Governor and keeping his cronies in power. More "tough on crime", more "secrets" and more "non-sense" that we pay for and accept blindly as fact.

You reap what you sew and we might as well all get used to it.

Anonymous said...

It's rediculous that we're even having this discussion. Why can't TDCJ simply go back to using "Ol' Sparky," or better yet, death by firing squad? Lethal injection has always struck me as way too humane for many of these psychopaths given the gravity of suffering they've caused. Electricity and ammo are likely much less expensive too. It would save the taxpayers money!

Michael said...

While the suggestion that those protesting executions would all of a sudden become violent and begin shooting at corrections officials as they walked in or out of the Walls Unit is laughable, I can see a heightened state of protest if it were determined, for example, that TDCJ's inventory of any of the three that make up the "cocktail" showed they lacked sufficient amounts to carry them out, but did so anyway. Obviously, this would enrage all death-penalty opponents, and result in costly litigation preventing executions until the matter could be resolved. The fact that the state is even discussing this issue raises suspicion. Do you think the state would continue on with an execution without revealing that they didn't even use sodium pentathol if they thought they could get away with it on the basis that revealing the truth would open them up to lawsuits and court-imposed stays of execution?

Officer, not Boss said...

Michael is quite right. The only guns and knives TDCJ is afraid of are the "legal ones" to be fired or thrust by lawyers willing to take them to task for shoddy workmanship. The constitution prescribes the quality and the state prescribes the method of executions, not TDCJ's mouth piece.

Anonymous said...

As usual, such pretty words to describe a mundane task. How pretty will the next be?

Anonymous said...

Protesters have, in fact, been violent (The day of the Graham execution).

Retired 2004

George Schwarz said...

Descriptions of Larry Wooten's execution raise a serious question. Does TDCJ have enough Sodium thiopental to render an inmate sufficiently unconscious?

Descriptions of Wooten's death include him crying and then gasping, leading me to conclude he was still awake when the pancuronium bromide hit.

Clearly, this is cruel and unusual punishment, but that doesn't bother the likes of Greg Abbott or Rick Perry.

I wish I knew how to rid Texas of this cruelty mentally that reaches to the very top of government.

sunray's wench said...

People usually only want to be secretive when they know they are doing something wrong. I would suspect that TX is pretty much out of the drugs it needs, just like CA is.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Retired, please describe this "violence" when Gary Graham was executed. If true, why would TDCJ tell the AG it was not? Any sourcing on the claim would be nice, as well.

Perhaps I'm misremembering, but what I recall about that was that Graham CALLED for violence but in fact that did not occur.

Anonymous said...

If they run out of the chemical that they need. They can always use bleach... Keep it simple.

yvette99 said...

Texas wanting secrecy over the drugs makes you think they are hiding something like not having enough of certain drugs, and Texas would probably execute regardless if they had secrecy.

Hook Em Horns said...

George Schwarz said...

I wish I knew how to rid Texas of this cruelty mentally that reaches to the very top of government.

10/24/2010 09:45:00 AM
-----------------------------------
It won't happen George. It just won't. Texans have bought into this "law and order" toughness for so long, they don't know any better. They have bought into it to a depth that anyone who suggests judicial reform or a review of the death penalty is written off as a liberal loon. As a law student at U-T, it will soon be my turn to make a difference and what I am learning is as disheartening as it gets.

I am not, necessarily, anti death penalty but suffice to say there is reason enough to stop executions in this state knowing what we know how the administration of justice. Unfortunately, we are in the minority.

Anonymous said...

". . .if true why would TDCJ tell the AG it was not?"
My educated guess (and previous experience with TDCJ "staffers"): AG staffer makes inquiry to TDCJ. TDCJ staffer cannot find any record. TDCJ staffer responds to AG staffer; "The were no incidences of violence in response to your request concerning violence of non-violent protesters at executions".

If you really wanted to know if any of the protesters committed any acts of violence I'm sure you would ask. "Have any of the protesters been violent?". A non-violent protester, would lose that descriptor upon committing a violent act.

I was there and assisted in locating, identifying, and detaining one of the protestors that stuck a warden in the head.
I also had another man on my security detail injured. We had armed white racists and armed black racists that we(federal, state and local) managed to keep seperated. There were a few fist fights that were broken up (Of course that didn't meet the "violent" criteria that day).It was a very long, hot, tense day and night. I passed one comment on to the security detail that I received that night from of all people, Geraldo R (off-camera of course). He told me; "You guys did one hell-of-a-job today".

David Weeks' Office (DA of Walker County), may be able to provide info on the person taken into custody for the assault. I understand she made some type of plea bargin. The Huntsville Item (newspaper) archives, may also be a source of other violence at other executions concerning protestors.

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

CORRECTION: The warden was STRUCK in the head with an object (Not "stuck").

Retired 2004