Thursday, February 02, 2017

That time when TDCJ contracted with black-market party-pill pushers who were busted before they delivered their shipment

Did the Texas Department of Criminal Justice really contract with black-market pill dealers in India to supply execution drugs? That's the blockbuster revelation in this Buzzfeed report. Apparently, "In January 2015, facing a market where reputable options have dried up after manufacturers forced sellers to agree to never sell to executioners, Texas looked overseas and found willing sellers in India." TDCJ told the DEA in an official filing that they'd be getting the drugs from a company called Provizer Pharma, which turned out to be a front for an illegal-drug ring that sold a wide array of party pills in underground Indian markets,

TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark called the Buzzfeed story "highly speculative and inaccurate" and insisted that, “The agency has not engaged in any transaction with this company.” But the fact is, TDCJ really did submit paperwork to the DEA saying it intended to buy drugs from these black-market dealers. The deal fell through not because of TDCJ's rigor in contracting but because, before they could fulfill the order, the drug dealers they were working with were busted for their party-pill operation. Jason is right there was never a transaction, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Six months after the Provizer Pharma bust, "In July 2015, a different supplier in India sent Texas 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental." TDCJ never got them, though: The FDA seized the drugs and has yet to make a final determination whether they'll ever be released.

Even with Donald Trump appointing a new FDA commissioner, the outcome here isn't certain: Presently, importation of the drugs is banned by a federal court order.

Grits' concern here isn't so much whether or how TDCJ purchases death-penalty drugs - I've said before if they switched to the firing squad it'd be fine with me. But just like police officers who purchase illegal steroids risk corruption by trafficking with drug dealers, when I hear that TDCJ is palling around with party-pill pushers in India, going so far as to inform the federal DEA that they'd be engaging in large-scale purchases from them, I wonder about who was in the decision making tree on this deal and how much they knew - or willfully ignored - about those with whom they were climbing into bed.

To recap: TDCJ feared it wouldn't be able to kill people under American legal regimens without the state changing its execution method. So it sought out black-market party-pill-pushers in India to supply the missing drug and tried to convince the DEA to go along with it. Further, the reason the transaction didn't go through isn't because some state or federal official said "that's not a good idea," but because the black-market pill manufacturers were arrested for drug trafficking before they could deliver the product.

As we've learned time and again when it comes to innocence cases, in the criminal-justice arena, excessive zeal to do the right thing can frequently result in official misconduct. Certainly TDCJ has a duty to seek out these drugs as long as the Legislature says that's how executions must be carried out. But climbing into bed with shady, overseas drug peddlers demonstrated poor judgment. And the fact that TDCJ's partners were arrested before the deal was consummated hardly mitigates the agency's foolhardiness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"In July 2015, a different supplier in India sent Texas 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental."

"Presently, importation of the drugs is banned by a federal court order."

Soooo, who over at TDCJ is getting prosecuted for importing illegal drugs?