Execution delayed because drugs weren’t retested

The gurney in Huntsville where Death Row inmates are strapped down before receiving a lethal dose of drugs.
The gurney in Huntsville where Death Row inmates are strapped down before receiving a lethal dose of drugs. Star-Telegram archives

The execution of a Houston man set for next week has been delayed indefinitely because the state didn’t retest the purity of the lethal drugs in time.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has an independent lab test the potency and purity of all drugs used in executions. But after Perry Williams and another Death Row inmate raised concerns about the drugs in a federal appeal last year, the Texas attorney general’s office agreed to retest their doses shortly before their executions, according to federal court documents.

The retest didn’t happen in time for Williams’ execution — set for July 14 — and as a result, the state recommended that his execution be delayed. It’s unclear when the execution will be rescheduled.

“It’s Exhibit A in the need for transparency in this business,” said Maurie Levin, Williams’ attorney. “It’s pretty implausible for me that they didn’t have time to test that drug when the order’s been in place for over six months.”

The attorney general’s office said it could not comment on pending litigation, but confirmed that the execution date was withdrawn and will be rescheduled.

Jason Clark, spokesman for the TDCJ, said Wednesday’s decision wouldn’t affect other offenders. He said he doesn’t know of any other case where the attorney general had agreed to retest a particular dose of the lethal drug.

Williams, 35, was condemned for the murder and robbery of Matthew Carter, a Houston medical student on Sept. 17, 2000. Carter was returning a video at Blockbuster and walking back to his car when Williams approached with his gun, ordered Carter into the passenger seat, and drove off, trial records show. He later parked the car, shot Carter in the head and took $40 from his wallet.

Williams and three others stole wallets and jewelry at gunpoint from three other people that night.

In his testimony during the punishment phase of his trial, Williams took the blame for Carter’s death but said it wasn’t intentional.

“In the process of him getting out of the car he walked around the car, I’m trying to see where he is coming from,” Williams said. “I had, I had the gun, and something happened.”