Death Watch: Lucky 13?
The state on pace for a baker’s dozen of executions by year end
If all goes according to the state's plan, Texas will have executed 13 inmates by 2018's end. After five failed attempts to secure a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court, Joseph Garcia was executed just before 7pm on Tuesday – with the very drug challenged in his last-minute appeals.
In the last week, Garcia's attorneys filed several new motions for a stay due to a "belief" that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice acquires its execution drug pentobarbital "from a compounding pharmacy that has been repeatedly cited for safety and sanitation violations by state and federal regulators, and has been on probation with the Texas State Board of Pharmacy since 2016." The filings argued that execution would violate Garcia's 8th and 14th Amendment rights, since "substantial concerns" have been raised that the drug "will not be what it purports to be, will be contaminated, or will be otherwise substandard."
These filings came in response to a BuzzFeed News article published Wednesday, Nov. 28, based on documents identifying one of two manufacturers for Texas' lethal injection drugs: Houston's Greenpark Compounding Pharmacy, on probation for compounding the wrong drug for several children and forging quality control documents. It's also been cited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for potential sterility violations.
Texas is currently defending a 2014 lawsuit that challenges the state's refusal to identify its drug suppliers so as to avoid botched executions. BuzzFeed reported that, after receiving lethal injection, Texas inmates Anthony Shore, Juan Castillo, Troy Clark, Christopher Young, and Danny Bible all made declarations of pain and a "burning" feeling before dying.
Now Alvin Braziel Jr. is staring down a death date of Dec. 11, for the 1993 robbery-murder of Douglas White on a Eastfield College trail in Mesquite; White's wife Lora was brutally raped by his killer. Eight years later, after DNA linked Braziel – then serving time for another sex crime – to the rape, he was found guilty of capital murder. During the trial, Braziel maintained he did not kill White.
SCOTUS denied Braziel's last round of appeals in 2016. Attorneys Jeff Newberry and David Dow were later appointed substitute counsel, and on Dec. 3 filed a stay request and appeals at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. At press time, the filings had not been made available, nor had Dow or Newberry returned the Chronicle's requests for comment. But according to documents shared by the Attorney General's Office, Braziel's argument is based in an Atkins claim, which ruled executing the intellectually disabled is cruel and unusual punishment that violates the Eighth Amendment. The state's response claims that relief for that request has already been denied by the CCA. If executed, Braziel will be the 558th Texan to be killed by the state since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.