Texas' Cobbled Together Supply of Execution Drugs Works Just Fine

Turns out, Michael John Yowell had nothing to worry about. A week after filing a federal lawsuit to delay his execution on the grounds that the state's custom-made supply of pentobarbital, ordered hastily from a Houston-area compounding pharmacy last month, might cause an unconstitutional amount of suffering, the 43-year-old convicted murderer slipped away quietly with little or no apparent agony.

Here's how Yowell's hometown paper, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, described the scene.

The lethal dose of pentobarbital, also known as Nembutal, was injected into the intravenous catheters at 6:52 p.m.

Shortly after that, Yowell appeared to struggle for breath several times before settling into sleep, inhaling and snoring eight times before his audible breathing stopped.

Yowell, 43, became pale.

A prison physician checked for pulse and breathing and made the pronouncement of death.

Yowell's reaction to the drug was similar to the 23 other Texas inmates put to death since last year when the state began using pentobarbital as the lone lethal drug for executions.

See also: Pharmacy Owner Having Second Thoughts About Being Texas' Only Supplier of Execution Drug

Not that some wouldn't have wanted Yowell to suffer a bit more. He brutally murdered both his parents in 1998, shooting his father in the forehead and strangling his mother with a lamp cord on the day before mother's day. Then, he blew up the house by opening a natural gas line, killing his grandmother, whom he'd locked in a bedroom.

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But pentobarbital is the Supreme Court-approved execution drug of choice in Texas. Use of the compounded version was approved by a U.S. District Judge. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-minute appeal.

The question now becomes what happens once Texas exhausts its current supply of pentobarbital. The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy, which finds itself in the middle of a public-relations debacle, is unlikely to provide any more, nor is anyone else particularly eager to provide Texas with execution drugs.

Perhaps if the state can convince The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy owner Dr. Jasper Lovoi that he can tout the effectiveness of his pentobarbital as a testament to his skills as a pharmacist, he'll change his mind.