States Don’t Have to Disclose Where They Obtain Lethal Injection Drugs

First Missouri and now Texas has refused to disclose the origins of lethal injection drugs used in recent executions

Photo: CACorrections

Last week, Texas executed Tommy Lynn Sells, a convicted serial killer, with pentobarbital. Texas refused to disclose where it had acquired the drugs that were used to carry out Sells' sentence, AP reports, and Sells' lawyers had insisted that this information was important and tried to halt the execution. The lawyers argued that, without the name of the pharmacy, they could not ensure the quality of the drugs or that their client—who killed up to 70 people, including children and pregnant women—did not fall victim to "unconstitutional pain and suffering."  The U.S. Supreme Court, however, rejected that plea, AP reports.

Pentobarbital is the lethal injection drug of choice for some U.S. states, but the Danish company that invented it banned its sale for the purpose of lethal injection. Shortly after, several states began reporting shortages of the drug, which caused concern about the means of execution. Some turned to other lethal formulas, but others have chosen to stick with pentobarbital. 

The origins of those new doses, however, have come under question, and some pharmacies selling the drugs have received threats after their identity was disclosed publicly. In February, lawyers tried to halt the execution of convicted rapist and murderer Michael Taylor, who was sentenced to die in Missouri by a lethal pentobarbital injection. But as we reported here, officials pointed out that disclosing the name of the pharmacy is not a requirement for carrying out an execution, so Taylor's death was carried out on schedule. 


Like Taylor ealier this year, Sells gave no signs of distress during his execution. As the father of one of Sells' victims told the AP, Sells' death "was way more gentle than what he gave out."  

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