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Originally published October 12 2013

Convicted murderers on death row sue the Texas Department of Criminal Justice over new lethal drugs

by L.J. Devon, Staff Writer

(NaturalNews) New, experimental death row drugs are being formulated by pharmaceutical companies, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is allegedly "experimenting with the new drugs and obscuring the information from the public." According to death row inmate Michael Yowell, who faces lethal injection in October, the Texas judicial system has no right to experiment with new drugs on his body, especially when they are from unnamed sources.

The new drugs are coming about due to shortening supplies of the lethal pentobarbital drug, which was sold under the brand name Nembutal.

TDCJ restricted from using old death row drug pentobarbital

Pentobarbital, or Nembutal, has come under recent scrutiny. The drug's distributor, Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck, has restricted the supply of pentobarbital when used for lethal death row purposes. Pentobarbital is typically used as a treatment for epilepsy and seizures but has been used in recent years as a lethal sedative drug for death row inmates.

Death row inmate Yowell believes that pharmaceutical companies are growing very uncomfortable "with their products being used in executions." The TDCJ has already used the drug to execute at least a dozen death row inmates this year, but their recent compounded order of pentobarbital was not processed because their intent was to use the drug for executions.

New lethal combination of drugs come under scrutiny

As the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is restricted from buying the lethal pentobarbital, they have begun looking to new alternatives. These alternative drug combinations are being challenged by convicted murderer Yowell, who is being represented in court. Yowell and fellow death row inmates Thomas Whitaker and Perry Williams believe that now is an opportunity to sue over an entirely new drug. They note that the last time the lethal drug protocol was changed, the death row inmate to be executed was only given "two days' notice."

Yowell's official complaint states, "Because Nembutal is no longer available for use in executions, TDCJ has been exploring possible new drugs." The new drugs, a combination that has never been used in any state, include propofol, midazolam, and hyrdomorphone. All current evidence supports that this combination "runs substantial risk of grave pain" for the inmate. Furthermore, the complaint alleges that the TDCJ "refuses to timely disclose the source and nature of the drugs that they intend to use to execute Mr. Yowell."

Yowell states that the TDCJ is using a secretive and obstructionist approach, keeping him in the dark about what drugs they intend to use on him, where they come from and how effective they may or may not be. Essentially, Yowell wants to be assured that the drugs will execute him "without cruel and unusual pain."

Why is the Texas Department of Criminal Justice not being transparent with their lethal drugs?

After state court litigation required the TDCJ to respond to Public Information Act requests, the TDCJ allegedly gave "stalled, deceptive, and limited information."

Why would a Department of Justice be so secretive and obstructive with their means? Why did it take a request for Public Information to learn what kind of drugs they are going to use? Shouldn't the Department of Justice be more transparent with their means of lethal injection?

The eighth amendment of the US Constitution guarantees that people are not be subject to cruel and unusual punishments. With the existence of the death penalty in place, shouldn't the TDCJ have to prove that this drug protocol is neither cruel nor unusual?

For that matter, is the death penalty itself cruel and unusual?

Does the death penalty justify murder or does it perpetuate a cycle of death?

In the end, does the state of Yowell's death even matter? After all, he was convicted of shooting his father dead, strangling his mother and opening a gas valve that caused his grandmother to die in a fire.

By killing Yowell with lethal injection, is justice ever really served?

Is the death penalty hypocritical or necessary?

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