The death penalty is the ultimate punishment for capital murder convictions in Texas, which leads the nation in the number of executions since the practice resumed in 1976.
The state has adopted various methods to administer the death penalty over the years, including hanging (1819-1923), electrocution (1924-1964) and lethal injection (1977-today), according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's death penalty facts page.
The procedure involves injecting a lethal dose of pentobarbital, which sedates the inmate, and then pancuronium bromide to relax the diaphragm and lungs. A final injection of potassium chloride stops the heart. Inmates are typically pronounced dead about seven minutes after the process begins.
The state added pentobarbital to the drug cocktail on March 16 after the only American producer of sodium thiopental, Hospira Inc. of Lake Forest, Ill., announced in January that it would stop selling the drug. Sodium thiopental was used since 1982 as part of the combination of drugs in executions.
Death row inmates Cleve Foster and Humberto Leal are suing the state, alleging the department violated state transparency laws by making in secret the decision to use the new drug. They say the process of choosing the new drug requires public input, according to the Administrative Procedure Act.
Capital murder crimes:
- Murder of a public safety officer or firefighter
- Murder during the commission of kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, or obstruction or retaliation
- Murder for remuneration
- Murder during prison escape
- Murder of a correctional employee
- Murder by a state prison inmate who is serving a life sentence for any of five offenses (murder, capital murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, or aggravated robbery)
- Multiple murders
- Murder of an individual under 6 years of age