Complaint: Texas illegally acquiring lethal drugs

By Mike Ward

In a new challenge to Texas’ execution procedure, two condemned convicts complained to federal and state today alleging that state prison officials have been illegally obtaining the prescription drugs used in most of its 466 executions.

In a complaint delivered to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Cleve Foster and Humberto Leal contended that a DEA registration number used to purchase the three execution drugs is registered to a non-existent hospital — in possible violation of state and federal law.

A prescription written by a doctor is needed to obtain prescription drugs under federal and state law.

The complaint seeks investigations by DPS and the DEA to validate that Texas’ drug-procurement procedure for its lethal injections follows state and federal laws.

“The DEA registration number used by TDCJ was … obtained and/or retained through false pretenses,” because it is registered to the Huntsville Unit Hospital, which has been closed since approximately 1983, the complaint states.

Attorneys for Foster and Leal asked the Department of Justice and DPS to investigate TDCJ’s potential violations and “take appropriate steps if TDCJ has violated federal (or state) law.”

The letter to Holder also alleges that the drugs used by TDCJ to carry out executions “are neither kept by a pharmacy, hospital, or clinic, nor dispensed by an authorized practitioner through a prescription.”

Instead, the complaint alleges, the drugs are kept by prison officials, who are not authorized by law to possess or distribute controlled substances.

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