Texas Is Almost Out Of Execution Drug Again. The Legislature Is Trying to Help.

As has happened with regularity over the past couple of years, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is almost out of pentobarbital, it's drug of choice for killing condemned murderers.

According to information released by the TDCJ Monday to the Texas Tribune, it has three pentobarbital doses left. That's enough to make it through Gregory Russeau, scheduled to die June 18 for bludgeoning 75-year-old James Syvertson to death in Tyler in 2001.

The TDCJ has problems acquiring the drug because pharmacists and drug companies are uncomfortable helping the state kill people, especially if the identity of those providing the drugs is made public. Upon being outed in 2013, Dr. Jasper Lovoi, a compounding pharmacist from the Woodlands, asked the state for his drugs back.

"I, and my staff, are very busy operating our pharmacy, and do not have the time to deal with the constant inquiries from the press, the hate mail and messages ... Please contact me immediately to arrange for the return of the drugs," he said at the time.

After the Lovoi incident, then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott agreed that the agency could keep pentobarbital provider's identities secret, going against longstanding policy. A Travis County judge ruled against that decision in December.

A bill passed by the Texas Senate on Tuesday would clear the mess up.

"Discussion in the public area has led to a chilling effect for companies who want to supply this compound to the state of Texas," Senator Joan Huffman, S.B. 1697's author, said Monday. "There are very few doses left of the drug that's currently being administered."

Huffman's plan, which she called a practical solution, would make it state law to keep the names of execution drug providers secret.

Kirk Watson, a Democrat from Austin, criticized the bill for decreasing transparency.

"We are talking about contracts with the state that we are going to hide from the public," he said.

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