Texas obtains new supply of pentobarbital for execution use

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HOUSTON (AP) — The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has purchased a new supply of drugs that will allow the prison agency to at least carry out two executions scheduled for June, officials said Thursday.

Derrick Dewayne Charles' lethal injection on Tuesday only left Texas with enough pentobarbital to accommodate the execution of inmate Lester Bower set for June 3. Another prisoner, Gregory Russeau, is scheduled to die June 15.

Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark wouldn't say how much of the powerful sedative has been obtained or identify the source.

"The drugs were purchased from a licensed pharmacy that has the ability to compound," he said. "We continue to explore all options including the continued use of pentobarbital or alternate drugs to use in the lethal injection process."

Many death penalty states have turned to compounding pharmacies for execution drugs as traditional manufacturers, bowing to pressure from capital punishment opponents, have refused to sell their products to corrections departments in states that carry out executions.

A Texas judge last year, ruling in a lawsuit from attorneys for some condemned inmates, ordered the state to identify its lethal drug provider. That order is on hold while the ruling is under appeal.

Charles' execution for a triple slaying in Houston nearly 13 years ago was carried out the same day the Texas Senate passed a measure that would allow the identity of the state's lethal drug supplier to remain confidential. Texas House members are considering a similar measure.

The office of Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton has said that execution drug manufacturers won't sell to the state without total confidentiality. Suppliers who have reported being threatened by death penalty opponents say they won't take the risk.

Last year, The Associated Press reported Texas officials have offered scant evidence to support their claim that compounding pharmacies supplying execution drugs would be in danger of violence if their identities were made public. The AP has found no evidence of any investigations in Texas into threats against such pharmacies.

Texas carries out the death penalty more than any other state, and Charles' punishment was the seventh in the state this year and 525th since executions resumed in 1982. All of the Texas executions have been by injection, including the last 43 using pentobarbital as the lone drug.

Bower is set to die next month for the fatal 1983 shootings of four men at an airplane hangar on a North Texas ranch. Russeau faces execution for the slaying of a 75-year-old East Texas man during a robbery in 2001.

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