Are states writing – and repaying – IOUs for execution drugs?

In 2013, the Virginia Department of Corrections gave Texas some pentobarbital, a drug used in lethal injections. Two years later, the Lone Star State has returned the favor.

According to Jason Clark, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Virginia officials approached Texas, which “reciprocated” by giving Virginia three, 50-milligram vials of the drug.

Buzzfeed on Thursday reported on the drug exchange after it was revealed in an Oklahoma death row inmate’s court filing. In response to an open records request made by inmate Richard Glossip, Virginia released a receipt for the three vials dated Aug. 26, 2015, listing “Tx Dept of Criminal Justice” as the “supplier,” Buzzfeed reported.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections uses midazolam to carry out executions, and says it’s unable to obtain pentobarbital. Glossip is scheduled to be executed Sept. 30 and has challenged the state’s use of midazolam, which was used in the 2014 botched execution of Clayton Lockett. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in June that Oklahoma could continue using midazolam, and Glossip’s lawyers recently had a hearing in the case canceled after determining they couldn’t prove that an alternative drug could be obtained in time.  

Glossip’s Thursday filing was intended to highlight the “factual dispute regarding the availability of pentobarbital,” his lawyer wrote: In other words, if Texas is producing its own pentobarbital, then Oklahoma could, too.

When asked if TDCJ is indeed compounding its own pentobarbital, Clark wrote in an email that the vials were “legally purchased from a pharmacy,” and no money was exchanged between the two states in either occasion.

Texas has a history of keeping secret the names of the compounding pharmacies that supply its execution drug. That shroud of secrecy was strengthened by a new state law, which went into effect Sept. 1 and mandates the suppliers remain anonymous.

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