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Texas To Execute Gang Hit Man, States Struggling to Find More Execution Drug

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Texas is all set to execute a hit man for the Mexican Mafia on Wednesday, after he was convicted of beating and strangling a woman from San Antonio. The woman was said to have skimped on paying the gang’s 10 percent tax on drug sales, and therefore the mafia had her executed, according to a report from ABC News. Meanwhile, Texas, and other states are having to delay further executions due to a shortness of supply, or a “cloudiness” in the drug used for the process.

Mafia Hit Man to be Executed

According to the ABC News report, Manuel Vasquez’s lawyers filed no late appeals to delay his execution for the 1998 slaying of 51-year-old Juanita Ybarra. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review his case in October 2013.
Testimony at Vasquez’s capital murder trial showed Ybarra had ignored the gang’s “dime” tax on street drug sales in San Antonio, so Vasquez and two partners were ordered that she ‘had to go down.’” “Most drug dealers do know,” said Mary Green, an assistant Bexar County district attorney who prosecuted Vasquez. “I’m sure she was told if you’re selling, you’ve got to pay the tax. “I guess she didn’t take it seriously.”

Fueled by a night of drinking and drugs, the hit men put on bandannas to cover their faces and socks on their hands to prevent fingerprints and barged into a room at a run-down San Antonio motel where Ybarra was staying with her boyfriend, Moses Bazan. Bazan was beaten and stabbed but survived to identify one of the attackers, leading to the arrest of all three. He also said he saw Vasquez ask one of his companions for a phone cord and saw Vasquez strangling Ybarra.

One of the men, Johnny Joe Cruz, testified against Vasquez under a plea deal that carried a seven-year prison term. The third man charged, Oligario Lujan, is serving a 35-year sentence. Court records show the three were carrying out orders from Mexican Mafia boss Rene Munoz, who spent years on the Texas Department of Public Safety’s 10 Most Wanted List until his arrest in 2012.”

Texas Prisons Struggle to Replenish Execution Drug Supply

After the execution of the Mexican Mafia hit man, Texas will only have enough of its inventory of execution drugs to handle one more case. The report from ABC shares, “The injection of Manuel Vasquez, 46, with a lethal dose of pentobarbital would leave Texas with enough of the powerful sedative to carry out only one more execution. At least six prisoners are scheduled to die in the coming weeks. Texas prison officials, like those in other death penalty states, have found it increasingly difficult to find suppliers to provide drugs intended for capital punishment use.” This leaves Texas prison scrambling to find more of the lethal drug.

A report from NBC news explains that Randall Mays, who is scheduled to be executed on March 18, will receive the last does of pentobarbital that Texas has in stock for executions. Four others are to be executed in April, but it is not yet known how those executions will take place. The report goes on to say, “The Texas Department of Criminal Justice declined to say why it has not been able to obtain more pentobarbital from the same compounding pharmacy that provided the current batch of the powerful sedative last March. The state switched to that source several months after its previous supplier cut ties, citing hate mail and potential litigation after its name became public through an open records request from The Associated Press.

Prison officials have since waged a legal battle to keep the name of its latest supplier secret, but it’s unclear how much longer they can do so after a state judge last year ordered the agency to divulge the source. That ruling is on hold pending the outcome of the state’s appeal. Prisons spokesman Jason Clark said the state’s lawyers have advised the agency not to comment on whether the current supplier has backed out or whether the judge’s order has affected its ability to find a supplier.

Although Texas, traditionally the nation’s busiest death penalty state, faces the most imminent deadline for replenishing its pentobarbital supply, other states are experiencing similar problems. Texas has executed a nation-leading 521 inmates since 1982, when it became the first state to use lethal injection. It’s now been nearly three years since Texas began using pentobarbital as its only capital punishment drug, switching in July 2012 after one of the chemicals in the previous three-drug mixture no longer was available. The last 17 Texas executions, stretching back to September 2013, have used compounded pentobarbital, and the last nine from compounding pharmacies the state has refused to identify.

Texas officials have insisted the identity should remain secret, citing a “threat assessment” signed by Texas Department of Public Safety director Steven McCraw that says pharmacies selling execution drugs face “a substantial threat of physical harm.” Law enforcement officials have declined to elaborate on the nature of those threats. The U.S. Supreme Court, meanwhile, has refused to block punishments based on challenges to secrecy laws. However, the high court is reviewing Oklahoma’s lethal injection method, resulting in a hold on executions there, after a punishment using the sedative midazolam followed by two other drugs went awry. Oklahoma lawmakers now are considering a switch to nitrogen gas as the first alternative to injection while officials in other states are considering a return to firing squads or the electric chair.”

Meanwhile, two executions have been halted in Georgia due to cloudiness of the drugs. Kelly Gissendaner and Brian Terrell were set to be executed, however, the Georgia Department of Corrections has canceled both out of an “abundance of caution.”

Sources:

ABC News- http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/texas-execute-gang-hit-man-killing-drug-tax-29546444

NBC News- http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/lethal-injection/-n320401

and http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/georgia-executions-kelly-gissendaner-brian-terrell-hold-n316471

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