The state of Texas has filed a lawsuit against the federal Food and Drug Administration for the confiscation of an unapproved drug that Texas intended to use in their lethal injection cases, calling on the FDA to rule on the case so that they could resume their executions.
The suit, filed by Texas A.G. Ken Paxton on Tuesday, argues that the delay in a ruling from the FDA is now officially interfering the state’s ability to carry out their justice system appropriately. Interestingly enough, while the number of executions in 2016 was down from previous years, it’s not by much.
Texas was just one of six states to practice the death penalty via lethal injection last year. In 2016, Texas executed 7 inmates, down from 13 in 2015, 10 in 2014, 16 in 2013, and so on.
According to the suit, the FDA seized a cache of sodium thiopental at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston in July of 2015. Since then, the FDA has barred Texas from using the drug until they can rule on its safety. 15 months later, Texas has lost patience.
Sodium thiopental, a barbiturate and an anesthetic, is unapproved by the FDA to be used in lethal injection cases. The drugs Texas bought were purchased by a foreign supplier and Buzzfeed reported that the source country was India.
For the last several years, states that wish to execute its citizens have struggled to get their hands on the drugs used to administer a lethal injection. Since 1976, when the federal ban on the death penalty came to an end, Texas and other states used a mix of approved drugs. When those were in short supply in 2012, Texas shifted to using pentobarbital, another barbiturate, for lethal injections. This drug, too, is now hard to find.
Now, states that wish to execute their citizens at a speedy pace are willing to reach out to foreign suppliers and use riskier drugs, at the expense of causing great pain and suffering to those they execute, as was the case of Clayton Lockett and Dennis McGuire in 2014.
Both Lockett and McGuire were executed in Ohio and Oklahoma, respectively, and rather than dying with relatively little pain via the legal methods, both men suffered a great deal and died some time later of heart attacks.
The FDA is merely trying to ensure that the states respect these inmates’ rights – and one of those is a life free of cruel and unusual punishment and torture. Instead of suing to win back the unapproved drugs they sneakily purchased, Texas should reexamine why they feel the need to approve state-sponsored murder in the first place.