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Death Watch: Running Low on Poison

The state of Texas has three executions' worth of pentobarbitol

By Jordan Smith, Fri., Aug. 9, 2013

Death Watch: Running Low on Poison

As scheduled, the state of Texas carried out its 11th execution of the year on July 31, putting to death Douglas Feldman, convicted of the murder of two truck drivers, murders that Feldman said were prompted by road rage brought on by the rude driving of one of his victims, Robert Everett. In the years after his 1999 conviction, Feldman maintained that his victims were to blame for his murders – including on his death bed last week, where he declared Everett and Nicho­las Velasquez, the other man he killed, "guilty of crimes against me." Feldman was the 503rd inmate put to death in Texas since reinstatement, and the 864th since 1924, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

There are five more executions currently scheduled through the end of the year – but whether the state has the ability to carry those out is uncertain since its stock of pentobarbital, the only drug it now uses for lethal injection (it began the single-drug protocol last year), is in short supply. The Assoc­i­ated Press last week reported that it appears that Texas has enough of the barbiturate for three more executions before the current supply is exhausted.

TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark last week told reporters that the state is exploring all options for procuring more drugs – presumably including switching, again, to another protocol to carry out the executions. That has happened twice since 2011, when the maker of one component of the three-drug cocktail the state had been using said it would not provide any more drugs for executions; the state then replaced that drug with the pentobarbital in the three-drug regime before last year switching to execution by barbiturate alone.

Texas' next execution is currently scheduled for Sept. 19.

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