A lawsuit brought by three inmates against the state of Texas claims the State plans on using unsafe and expired drugs early this year to perform executions.
The prisoners are Robert Fratta, Wesley Ruiz, and John Balentine, AP News reported. Fratta is the first of the inmates set for execution on January 10. Ruiz and Balentine are both scheduled for execution in February. Fratta did not join the suit until after it had been filed.
Shawn Nolan, an attorney for Ruiz and Balentine, told AP News that attorneys are asking for an evidentiary hearing.
Nolan stated the hearing will discover if the inmates are at “serious risk of pain and suffering in the execution process.”
Prison officials have denied the claim, according to AP News, stating the drug supplies for executions are safe.
Nolan claimed the State of Texas keeps matters about execution secret.
“Texas continues to just really rely on secrecy in these executions and that’s why they’re trying to do an end run around this lawsuit because they don’t want to tell anybody that these drugs are expired,” Nolan alleged to AP News.
In 2015, Texas lawmakers banned disclosing the supplier of execution drugs. This ban was upheld in 2019 by the Texas Supreme Court. The State has obtained pentobarbital from compounding pharmacies to perform executions in recent years.
Michaela Almgren, a pharmacology professor at the University of South Carolina, submitted a declaration to support the prisoners’ lawsuit. Almgren’s declaration claimed that any pentobarbital in Texas has expired beyond its use date, according to AP News.
Almgren stated, “A drug that has surpassed its [beyond use date] is at risk of stability and sterility failings and may not retain sufficient potency, thus it must not be used.”
Using expired execution drugs would violate state laws, according to Nolan, including the Texas Pharmacy Act and the Texas Controlled Substances Act.
Lawyers for the inmates have stated they do not want to stop “lawful executions,” but Nolan told AP News the three executions would need non-expired drugs.
“If the state wants to go forward with these executions, they can do that,” Nolan said. “They just need to get non-expired drugs.”
A spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Amanda Hernandez, told AP News in an email that state execution drugs are safe for use.
“All lethal injection drugs are within their use dates and have been appropriately tested,” Hernandez said.
But Almgren further asserted in her 15-page declaration that testing done by the State is unreliable and gives invalid results.
In 2019, when the Texas Supreme Court upheld the ban on disclosing its suppliers, the State had argued that revealing them could be dangerous, AP News reported, saying employees of the suppliers of the execution drugs could be at risk.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton shared his agreement with the ruling at the time.
“The voters of Texas have expressed their judgment that the death penalty is necessary, and this decision preserves Texas’ ability to carry out executions mandated by state law,” Paxton said in a statement.
Texas was the first state to execute a prisoner by lethal injection in 1982.