Officials in Texas are keeping executions going in the state in the wake of drug shortages by tweaking lethal injection rules without public input or scrutiny through changes made by one official with no medical training, a report published Thursday shows.
Mike Ward reports for the Austin American-Statesman on how Rick Thaler, "the state’s No. 3 corrections official," was able to make statewide change to the state's three-drug lethal injection policy.
Under a state law enacted years ago, Thaler — a former guard and warden with no medical training — alone decided the change on how Texas’ ultimate punishment is administered. His signature on the revised 10-page execution policy was all it took to upend almost three decades of precedent using three drugs in executions.
Lethal injection faces increasing scrutiny nationwide with states scrambling to keep their death chambers operating as their supplies of drugs run short, and because of that, critics of the death penalty say, the execution process is much more haphazard than it once was.
“It appears to be like the Keystone Kops running around changing the procedures to fit whatever drugs they can get at that time, just so they can keep executions going,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center. “Clearly, this is not any way to be doing this.”
Ward also cites Deborah Denno, a law professor and death penalty expert at New York’s Fordham University, who says: “The process has always been sloppy, but it’s getting much riskier from a constitutional standpoint, in my view. There used to be a pretense that the three-drug method was humane."
"Any attorney now worth their salt will be challenging the lethal injection procedure,” adds Denno.