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Federal Judge Halts 2 Texas Executions Over Drug Secrecy

The Texas death chamber in Huntsville, TX  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers)

The Texas death chamber in Huntsville, TX (Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers)

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HOUSTON, Texas (CBSDFW/AP) – The Texas attorney general’s office says it is appealing a federal judge’s order stopping the state from executing two condemned inmates until prison officials disclose information about the supplier of a new batch of drugs that would be used to kill them.

U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore issued a temporary injunction earlier Wednesday halting the lethal injection of Tommy Lynn Sells, who is set to die Thursday. Her order also stopped the execution of another inmate, Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas, who is set to die next week.

The state prison agency has insisted that the drug supplier’s identity must be kept secret to protect the drugmaker from threats of violence. Attorneys insist the name is needed to verify the quality of the drug and keep the inmate from unconstitutional pain.

Gilmore had ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide to Sells’ attorneys information about the drug procurement, supplier, testing, what kind and who conducted the testing.

Texas prison officials haven’t provided them “with sufficient information,” Gilmore said in her ruling Wednesday.

Since obtaining a new supply of the drug pentobarbital two weeks ago, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice had cited unspecified security concerns in refusing to disclose the source and other details about the sedative it plans to use to put inmates to death.

“As a result, the state’s secrecy regarding the product to be used for lethal injection has precluded (the inmates and their attorneys) from evaluating or challenging the constitutionality of the method of execution,” Gilmore wrote her a five-page opinion.

Constitutional law expert Gerald Treece at the South Texas College of Law spoke with 1080 KRLD about the ruling.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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