Three major Texas newspapers – the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Houston Chronicle, and the Austin American-Statesman – have published editorials in the last week decrying Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s decision to allow the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to withhold information about the pharmacy or pharmacist now supplying the drug used in lethal injections. All three editorials note that on three occasions in the last four years, the Attorney General upheld the Texas Public Information Act and rejected arguments from TDCJ that it needed to protect the identity of its supplier due to “security concerns.” They express bewilderment about Abbott’s change of heart, particularly in light of what the Associated Press has called “scant evidence” of threats to execution drugmakers.
According to the editors of the Austin American-Statesman, the ruling “was a defeat for open government and brings into question Abbott’s commitment to government transparency” (“Abbott does an about-face on open records,” June 7, 2014).
In “No deadly secrets” (June 6, 2014), the Houston Chronicle cautions that “after last month’s botched lethal injection in Oklahoma, all Texans should be skeptical of a state government that won’t answer questions about the death penalty process. “
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram (“Editorial: Greg Abbott switches position on Death Row drugs sources,” June 2, 2014) notes that the lack of transparency in the lethal injection process “… makes executions even more questionable than they are already.”
At a time when the state’s lethal injection process is shrouded in secrecy, it was troubling to learn from the Texas Tribune that TDCJ is permitting fewer media outlets to witness executions (“TDCJ Viewing Policy Reduces Witnesses to Executions,” June 5, 2014). The Tribune reports that there are only five media seats available in the Texas execution chamber, as compared with 12 media seats in Oklahoma and 10 in Florida. Read more about the change in policy.