Texas inmate seeks last minute execution delay, citing drug

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – An attorney for a death row inmate set to die on Tuesday urged Governor Rick Perry on Monday to place the execution on hold while questions are answered about the process the state used to redesign its execution drug protocol.

Cleve Foster, 47, who is scheduled to be executed for the rape and murder of Nyanuer “Mary” Pal, 28, nine years ago, would be the first person executed in Texas using a sedative often used to euthanize animals.

The new drug pentobarbital will replace sodium thiopental in Texas’ three-drug execution protocol.

The change was necessary because Hospira Inc. of Illinois announced in January that it would stop making the sodium thiopental after Italy objected to Hospira manufacturing an execution drug in that country. That caused a shortage of the drug throughout the United States.

Ohio and Oklahoma have already switched to use of pentobarbital in executions.

Maurie Levin, Foster’s attorney, told Perry that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice made the decision behind closed doors just weeks before Foster’s execution.

“The timing of the decision and the disclosure raises serious concerns about the haste with which the Texas Department of Criminal Justice seeks to implement this new process, and a lack of transparency by state officials,” Levin wrote to Perry.

Perry’s office did not respond on Monday to calls seeking comment.

A judge in Austin on Friday declined to order a halt to Foster’s execution based on Levin’s concerns that the process used to decide on the use of pentobarbital violates the state’s open records law. A state appeals court denied Foster’s appeal on Monday, and Foster’s attorneys are expected to appeal to the state Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Lawyers for the Capital Punishment Center at the University of Texas and the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday called for Foster’s execution – and all executions – to be delayed until more is known about the effects on humans of pentobarbital.

“If use of this drug results in the torturing of a human being, we don’t want that,” said Dottie Griffith, public education director of the ACLU of Texas.

Texas has executed more inmates than any other state – 466 – since capital punishment was legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Peter Bohan)

Texas inmate seeks last minute execution delay, citing drug