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UPDATED: ACLU: When Facing Death, Lizards Are Treated More Humanely Than Humans

UPDATED: This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to stop Cleve Foster's execution scheduled for tonight, reported The Chronicle. It would have been the first execution in Texas by way of pentobarbital.

The pets of those on death row would be treated more humanely than their owners, if the animals were sitting in the execution chamber instead of them.

According to a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Texas, and the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University School of Law, euthanasia of animals is more tightly regulated than that of inmates facing the death sentence.

The report comes amid controversy about the drug pentobarbital, which is the substitute for sodium thiopental -- the classic chemical in the three-ingredient execution cocktail. Facing a shortage of the drug, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) named pentobarbital as its replacement. Less than three weeks after the announcement, it's being used tonight to kill death-row inmate Cleve Foster, 47, who sexually assaulted and murdered a 28-year-old woman.

Animal euthanasia is strictly controlled here in Texas, where the drugs must be tested, technicians must be certified, and dosages must be prescribed. There is no similar law requiring training for those who administer the death drug to humans, dosage-to-weight guidelines, or stringent tests on the efficacy and humanity of the drug, according to the report.

"The failure of this drug in its intended use would cause everyone's worst surgical nightmare: total paralysis and excruciating pain," said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director of the ACLU of Texas, in a press release. "Expert assessment and governmental transparency should be minimum requirements before this new drug protocol is used."

The report cites a study which tested the bodies of autopsied inmates that had been lethally injected. It found that 43 percent showed signs of being conscious at the time of death. And for a first run with pentobarbital, there's no real evidence whether its combination with the other two lethal injection drugs -- pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride -- will produce the painless effect that a conscious body desires.

Lawyers for Foster are also red-flagging the manner in which Texas obtained the drug, reported the Austin American-Statesman. They discovered that TDCJ has been buying lethal injection drugs under the registration number of a defunct hospital in Huntsville, one that hasn't existed since 1983. If TDCJ is found guilty of the violation, the DEA could force them to surrender the lethal injection drugs.

If that doesn't work, the ACLU is asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry to hold off on executing anyone with the new drug until they can treat inmates at least as humanely as fish.


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