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TDCJ Refuses to Return Execution Drugs to Pharmacist

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said Monday that they will not heed a request to return a supply of execution drugs from the pharmacist who sent them to the state.


Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said Monday that they will not heed a request to return a supply of execution drugs from the pharmacist who sent them to the state.

"The drugs were purchased legally by the agency," TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark said in an emailed statement. "TDCJ has no intention of returning the pentobarbital." 

Pentobarbital is the lone drug that Texas uses in executions. States have been scrambling to find enough of it to carry out death sentences amid a national shortage and the refusal of some companies to supply the drug for execution purposes. Last week, The Associated Press reported that TDCJ obtained enough to conduct executions scheduled into next year from The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy outside of Houston. In a letter to the TDCJ, the owner and pharmacist in charge, Dr. Jasper Lovoi, demanded that the agency return the vials in exchange for a refund. The publication of his name, he wrote, created a firestorm of controversy.

"I, and my staff, are very busy operating our pharmacy and do not have the time to deal with the constant inquiries from the press, the hate mail and messages as well as getting dragged into the state's lawsuits with prisoners and possible future lawsuits," Lovoi wrote.

The letter from Lovoi comes as lawyers for three death row prisoners seek to halt their executions with a lawsuit alleging that the drugs Texas plans to use could cause the inmates severe pain or be inadequate to cause death and that the state failed to disclose information about the kinds of drugs planned for use in its executions.

One of the three inmates in the lawsuit, Michael Yowell, is scheduled for execution on Wednesday. Yowell was convicted of shooting his father, strangling his mother and setting their house on fire, which led to the death of his grandmother, who could not escape and died from her injuries. A federal judge on Saturday denied Yowell's request to delay the execution.

"The letter from Woodlands Pharmacy is further evidence of TDCJ's lack of good faith," Maurie Levin, a lawyer for one of the inmates, said in a statement.

In the letter, Lovoi wrote that TDCJ officials assured him his involvement with the execution process would be "kept on the 'down low' and that it was unlikely that it would be discovered that my pharmacy provided these drugs." After the publication of the AP story, he wrote, his name and his pharmacy's name were "posted all over the internet."

Messages seeking comment for this story from Lovoi were not returned. 

Lawyers for the inmates argue that there could be sterility, contamination, testing protocol, training and other problems with the drugs sourced to the compounding pharmacy the state is using. And they plan to appeal the ruling on Yowell's execution, hoping to block it before Wednesday.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/10/07/tdcj-refuses-return-execution-drugs-pharmacist/.

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