Death Watch: Can Texas Keep a Secret?

State Supreme Court grants rehearing in execution drug supplier case


The Texas Supreme Court caved under pressure last Friday, Oct. 19, granting the Texas Department of Criminal Justice a rehearing regarding a 2014 lawsuit over whether the state should be allowed to keep secret its execution drug suppliers. That in itself isn't shocking, but the decision comes four months after the court rejected the state's appeal of a lower court's ruling, and the 3rd Court of Appeals' affirmation, which ordered the state to name the supplier.

Court records show Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Solicitor General Kyle D. Hawkins filed a motion of support for the TDCJ on Oct. 3, reiterating the argument that suppliers should remain unnamed due to the "substantial threat of physical harm" should the pharmacy – described as an open-to-the-public "retail compounding pharmacy" in an "urban" area – be identified. Also in a show of support for the TDCJ, the state of Arizona submitted an amicus brief in July alleging that the COA's ruling would cause "dire consequences" that would threaten the death penalty nationwide. According to the brief, "Public disclosure of a rare and valuable supplier of lethal-injection drugs chills other current and potential suppliers, and facilitates the escalating 'guerilla war against the death penalty.'"

The original 2014 suit was filed by three attorneys with clients on death row seeking to avoid botched executions. But even if the high court rules in their favor, it's unlikely to have much impact since a state law passed in 2015 now allows the TDCJ to keep ­suppliers secret. Either way, the court's ruling hangs in limbo until the rehearing. Oral arguments have been scheduled for Jan. 23, 2019.

Meanwhile, another execution has been halted. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Kwame Rockwell a last-minute stay on Friday, Oct. 19. Rockwell, who was set to die on Wednesday, Oct. 24, argued he is mentally unfit for execution, and though the trial court denied his request, the CCA has since concluded that Rockwell has, in fact, raised "substantial doubt" regarding his competency. The state's highest criminal court has reversed the lower court's ruling and has ordered the court to appoint "at least two" mental health experts to Rockwell's case. Three stays, including Rockwell's, have been granted in the last month, knocking 2018's grisly total down from 16 executions to 13 – still almost double the seven performed by the state last year.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Death Watch
Death Watch: King Set to Die for James Byrd Lynching
Death Watch: King Set to Die for James Byrd Lynching
Last-minute appeal seeks new trial as King maintains his innocence

Sarah Marloff, April 19, 2019

Death Watch: One Man Spared, Another Set to Die
Death Watch: One Man Spared, Another Set to Die
Mark Robertson seeks stay due to racist lawyer

Sarah Marloff, April 5, 2019

More by Sarah Marloff
Saving Emily Dickinson From History in <i>Wild Nights With Emily</i>
Saving Emily Dickinson From History in Wild Nights With Emily
Molly Shannon and Madeleine Olnek revise the poet's life and loves

April 19, 2019

Qmmunity: A Well-Deserved Celebration for Cheer Up Charlies
Qmmunity: A Well-Deserved Celebration for Cheer Up Charlies
And so many hot events, we can’t reco them all!

April 19, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Death Watch, execution drug supplier, Kyle D. Hawkins, Kwame Rockwell

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle