Texas shouldn’t help other states kill people


The Texas death chamber in Huntsville
The Texas death chamber in Huntsville The Associated Press

Through decades of protests and legal objections from death penalty opponents, Texas has maintained its policy of executing people convicted and sentenced to death for capital murder.

The state leads all others in carrying out those sentences and has executed 528 people by lethal injection since 1982.

Whether it’s right or wrong is a subject for another discussion — this Editorial Board is opposed to the death penalty. But it’s state policy, and Texas is sticking with it.

That does not mean it’s OK for Texas to be a purveyor of death in other states.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed Friday that it has supplied the lethal injection drug pentobarbital to prison officials in Virginia, enabling that state to move forward with the execution of a 49-year-old man scheduled for Thursday.

The dose of the drug that Virginia had on hand for the task, midazolam, expires Wednesday, prison officials there said.

TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark said Virginia gave Texas pentobarbital two years ago as a backup dose for a scheduled execution, and this year “we reciprocated.”

Virginia did us a favor so we could kill one of ours, so we have returned the favor by helping them be ready to kill one of theirs.

Once you cross the line into deliberate, state-sponsored killing, whether it takes place here or somewhere else might seem to make little difference. But it should.

If it’s to be approved at all, the death penalty should be kept tightly bound or there’s real danger that we’ll lose all proper perspective on it.

The death penalty is a state-by-state policy; 19 states have outlawed it.

Virginians can make their own decisions and make plans for carrying them out without help from Texans.

The supply of death penalty drugs has properly become a significant public issue, and drug manufacturers have pulled away from selling them for executions.

States like Texas typically rely on compounding pharmacies to supply pentobarbital and have adopted policies to shield the names and locations of those pharmacies from public release.

This year, Virginia lawmakers rejected a bill to keep secret the identities of the state’s lethal injection drug suppliers. Getting pentobarbital from Texas, where those identities are shielded, is a back-door way of doing what elected Virginia officials declined to do.

Clark, the TDCJ spokesman, said Texas has not supplied compounded drugs to any other state and does not manufacture its own drugs.

Well, that’s a relief.