As Texas prepares for its 13th execution of 2013 tonight in Huntsville, the state is finding the ingredients for a lethal injection are harder to come by. Texas is set to run out of its current supply of pentobarbital at the end of the month. Pentobarbital is the main drug used for executions in the state. However, the state is vowing to continue using the same drug. In a statement to the Associated Press last week, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said, "We have not changed our current execution protocol and have no immediate plans to do so," although he did not say how the state will replenish its supply of the drug.
The supply issue with lethal injection drugs is not unique to Texas, according to Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center. "A lot of these drugs are manufactured in European countries that oppose the death penalty," he tells KTRH. "So they are instructing these companies not to export (the drugs) for executions." Texas actually switched to using a single dose of pentobarbital last year, after one of the drugs previously used in its executions became difficult to obtain. Dieter says he has no knowledge of what Texas is doing to acquire pentobarbital, but there are other ways to get execution drugs. "Some states have turned to compounding pharmacies, which are local distributors that make a drug just for one dosage or one use," he explains.
Gumming up the supply of execution drugs is just the latest avenue taken by death penalty opponents to try and slow or stop executions. That effort has been somewhat successful, according to Dieter. "This isn't going to stop executions, states are going to find some way," he says. "But it is delaying some executions, and it's one more uncertainty for the death penalty (process) that already takes a long time." For its part, Texas isn't slowing down or delaying any executions due to supply issues. The state has an execution set for tonight in Huntsville, and another five scheduled before the end of the year.