Death Penalty

Calif. Dep. of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the three-drug combination used in Oklahoma executions.

At issue is whether the use of one of the drugs, Midazolam, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, since it is not proven to prevent the person being executed from feeling pain.

The largest pharmacist association in the country has voted to discourage its members from participating in executions.

The move could make executions harder for states that have been ordering their drugs from compounding pharmacies. As we've reported, some states like Texas turned to the pharmacies after big pharmaceutical companies — under pressure from death penalty opponents — decided to stop selling their drugs to U.S. prisons.

Mark Britain/flickr

One of the men involved in the biggest prison break in Texas history is set to be put to death today for the murder of 29-year-old Aubrey Hawkins, an Irving police officer, in December 2000.

Update: Newbury was pronounced dead at 6:25 p.m. Wednesday.

Donald Newbury, scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Huntsville today after 6 p.m., was one of the “Texas 7,” the inmate gang that escaped from a South Texas prison and went on a six-week crime spree 14 years ago.

Texas' second execution of 2015 is set for today at 6 p.m. in Huntsville. Robert Ladd was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of a Tyler, Tex., woman in 1996.

Ladd has spent 17 years on death row; he is 57 now.

The sexual assault and murder for which he's condemned occurred during a burglary at the home of the 38-year-old victim. Ladd was out on parole for another murder when he committed the 1996 murder.

Andres Rueda/via Flickr

The first Texas execution of 2015 is scheduled to happen today sometime after 6 p.m.

Arnold Prieto, 41, will be put to death for the murder and robbery of three people in 1993 in Bexar County. Two of the victims were Prieto's own great-aunt and great-uncle. No late appeals were filed to try to stop the execution from taking place.

Not only is this the first execution of the year, it is the first execution to happen under the governorship of Greg Abbott. 

The Supreme Court on Wednesday put off the execution of Russell Bucklew, a Missouri inmate who has maintained that his rare congenital medical condition would make the lethal injection procedure excessively painful.

Update at 4:57 p.m. ET. Federal Court Halts Execution:

With just hours to go, a federal court has halted the execution of Texas inmate Robert Campbell.

The execution would have been the first since Oklahoma botched one in April.

The ruling has nothing to do with the drug shortage that's dominated the narrative over the death penalty in the country. Instead, Campbell's lawyers argued that the state knew that Campbell was intellectually disabled but did not let his defense team know that.

Update: After Tuesday night's botched execution in Oklahoma, Texas corrections officials say they have no plans to use midazolam in future executions. Midazolam was the first component of a three-drug cocktail administered to death row inmate Clayton Lockett yesterday. Read more about the execution here.

As KUT first reported in February, the state has supplies of midazolam on hand. But the Texas Department of Criminal Justice says in a statement that it "has no plans to change our procedures. Texas does not use the same drugs as Oklahoma as we use a single lethal dose of pentobarbital and we have done so since 2012.” 

Attorneys for death row inmates in Texas have unsuccessfully tried to find out who is selling compounded pentobarbital to the state. They're suing in civil court and making a case to the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General that TDCJ should disclose its source. 

The botched execution of death row inmate Clayton Lockett on Tuesday in Oklahoma is sparking a reassessment of lethal injection.

Update at 8:19 p.m. ET. Execution Fails:

According to reporters tweeting from inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma, the execution of Clayton D. Lockett has failed. Lockett died of a heart attack after the execution was aborted.

The execution of Charles Warner, which was supposed to take place at 9 p.m. ET., was stayed by Corrections Director Robert Patton.

According to the AP reporter on the scene, about 34 minutes after the execution was scheduled to begin, Lockett was still conscious.

Calif. Dep. of Corrections and Rehabilitation

This week, Oklahoma's Supreme Court stopped the executions of two convicted murderers. At issue: where the state gets its execution drugs. The state does not want to reveal its source.  

Texas also has long kept its lethal drug suppliers secret, although Attorney General Greg Abbott recently issued an opinion stating it's time to go public.  But as death penalty opponents increase the pressure to expose suppliers and to disrupt the supply of the drug, some states are reviewing their options on capital punishment.

Texas Tribune

A federal judge in Houston on Wednesday blocked two Texas executions, deciding that the state prison system’s refusal to disclose detailed information about drugs that will be used to kill them violates the inmates' constitutional rights.

U.S. Judge Vanessa Gilmore issued a preliminary injunction that effectively blocked the Thursday execution of Tommy Lynn Sells and the execution of Ramiro Hernadez Llanas, which was scheduled for April 9.

The Attorney General’s office notified the inmates' attorneys and the court that the state's attorneys will appeal Gilmore’s decision.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

The owner of a compounding pharmacy outside Houston says he was told it was "unlikely" that his business would be revealed as the source of the state's lethal injection drug, pentobarbital.

Now that his Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy is known to be manufacturer of the drug intended for use in this week's scheduled execution and beyond, Jasper Lovoi has sent a letter to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), demanding the drug's return.

Lovoi's letter says he finds himself "in the middle of a firestorm" that he "was not advised of and did not bargain for." The identities of Lovoi and his pharmacy were originally revealed by the Associated Press, which obtained the information through an Open Records Request for its story on the new source of pentobarbital.

Erika Aguilar for KUT News

The Texas criminal justice system is not doing everything it can to ensure the death penalty is applied fairly.

That's according to a report released today by the American Bar Association’s Texas Capital Punishment Assessment Team, which claims Texas fails to meet national standards in all phases of implementing capital punishment.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: Kimberley McCarthy was put to death via lethal injection Wednesday evening, becoming the 500th prisoner to be executed in Texas since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982, following a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. McCarthy was condemned for the murder of her neighbor, 71-year-old Dorothy Booth, during a robbery.

Earlier: Kimberly McCarthy is scheduled to die by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas this evening. Her upcoming death has caught national and international attention because – if the execution is carried out – she will be the 500th person executed in Texas since the death penalty was reinstated and the fourth woman.

Veronica Zaragovia

Update: A Texas Senate committee passed a bill last night that would require DNA testing of evidence in cases involving the death penalty.

The proposal will now go to the full senate for a vote.

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Some officials in Texas – including Attorney General Greg Abbott – want to change how the state handles DNA evidence.

Abbott says he thinks testing on DNA evidence should happen before a death penalty case goes to trial.

"If you’re innocent, you’re going to find out that your exoneration will come sooner," Abbott said. "If you are guilty, justice will be more swift and more certain."

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

The State of Texas executed 48 year-old Carl Blue Thursday night. He was put to death for killing his former girlfriend in 1994.

Blue was convicted of setting 38 year-old Carmen Richards-Sanders on fire at her Bryan apartment.

According to information on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's death row website, Blue threw gasoline on Richards-Sanders when she opened the door to her apartment. He then ignited her clothes with a lighter. Blue also threw gasoline on a man in the apartment—who caught on fire when he tried to help Richards-Sanders.

Texas Tribune

Good morning. The National Weather Service still has Central Texas under a Red Flag Warning until 6 p.m. tonight. The humidity will be low and the winds are high, meaning higher wildfire danger.

Austin’s in for otherwise nice weather today, with temperatures cooling to the 60s after this week’s warm streak.

Lead Story: The non-profit that got the biggest grant so far from the state’s troubled cancer-fighting agency is going out of business. The Clinical Trials Network of Texas says it has run out of money after the taxpayer-funded Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) began withholding payments.

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