Two days ago, I noted that a Civil District Judge in Austin ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to disclose the source of composition of the new execution drugs they planned to use starting next week. As a pertinent Texas Tribune article at the time had noted, the State quickly appealed the case to the Third Court of Appeals and asked them to intervene. Early yesterday, the State Appeals Court simply rejected the request for the Writ of Mandamus in a one-page order. Without flinching, the State then asked the Texas Supreme Corut to intervene in the matter. For the record, this case revolved around a civil –not a criminal– dispute, so the Supreme Court and not the Court of Criminal Appeals ended up hearing the final appeal.
The Texas Supreme Court then, near end of business yesterday, issued yet another one-page order that simply stayed the original Trial Court’s ruling. As best as I could figure out, the Associated Press compiled the best summary of the issues therein.
The key issue here revolves around whether the components and sources of the State’s execution drugs should be disclosed, not to the general public, but to the condemned’s attorneys. Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for Governor, had previously opined in what he now calls “informal opinions” that the sources of the drugs should be left to the public.
The Criminal Justice department contends that it must keep the sources of these drugs a secret, pointing to financial threats directed towards the pharmacies that facilitate capital punishment. Defense attorneys, right I might add, counter by arguing their clients have a right to know the substances that will be used to possibly end their lives. I take it a step further, and agree with the Greg Abbott of yesteryear in saying the public has a right to know, in a spirit of due process, what is being used.
If the pharmacies are so afraid of losing professional licensing or public support by backing executions, what better evidence do we have that the barbaric practice is both cruel and unusual? In days of old, executioners would often cover their faces in black sackcloth so as to conceal their identities. This was because the executioners were seen as carrying out the often unpopular caprices of the crown, and wanted to avoid retribution from the general public.
These compounding pharmacies now wish to figuratively “cover their faces in back sackcloth” so as to avoid that same retribution. However, we were not a society founded upon those principles of secretiveness of the crown. We are based on transparency. Anyways, the Texas Supreme Court will look at this detail with greater rigor at some point this upcoming week.