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Texas to Appeal Disclosure of Execution Drug Maker

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Execution gurney in death chamber at Huntsville, Texas.

    A state judge ordered the Texas prison agency Thursday to disclose its supplier of a new batch of execution drugs to attorneys for two inmates set to be put to death.

    Texas prison officials said Thursday they will appeal the judge's decision.

    The Texas Department of Criminal Justice argued in court Thursday that the identity of execution drug suppliers should be protected because of escalating threats. The prison agency lost its previous supplier last year after the compound pharmacy's name was made public and it received threats.

    The ruling Thursday in Austin came one day after attorneys for two death row inmates filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice seeking the information. It was not immediately clear if the agency would comply or appeal the ruling.

    The lawsuit against the state agency contends the prisoners cannot evaluate the risk that could result in them being subjected to unconstitutionally cruel pain.

    Attorneys for convicted killers Tommy Lynn Sells and Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas filed a lawsuit demanding the Texas Department of Criminal Justice name the provider of the pentobarbital, the sedative the state uses for lethal injections.

    Sells and Hernandez-Llanas are scheduled to die April 3 and 9 respectively. Sells was condemned for slashing two girls' throats in 1999 at a home near Del Rio; one girl died. Hernandez-Llanas was condemned for the 1997 beating death of a man who owned a ranch where Hernandez worked near Kerrville.

    "Time is truly of the essence," the inmates' lawyers said in their lawsuit. "Without information about where the drugs come from, and the purity, potency and integrity of those drugs, neither Mr. Hernandez-Llanas nor Mr. Sells can evaluate the risk that their executions will subject them to cruel and unusual pain in violation of the Eighth Amendment."

    The current supply of pentobarbital used for lethal injections in Texas expires April 1. Prison officials said last week they have a new supply but cited security reasons for declining to disclose the supplier's name.

    The state attorney general's office previously has said the information should be public and is waiting for arguments from the agency on why the policy should be changed.