With a flurry of executions scheduled in Texas late next month and into April, state prison officials concede they have no backup method of executing condemned criminals if the state's supply of the execution drug pentobarbital runs out, 1200 WOAI news reports.
"Our statute calls for lethal injection," prison spokesman Jason Clark said. "To change that statute calls for Legislative approval."
There is talk in Virginia about bringing back the electric chair. In Wyoming, there is talk of firing squads. It is uncertain whether any of these alternatives would meet with the approval of the courts.
Ever since the death penalty was re-instituted in the United States in the late 1970s, Texas and most of the other 32 states which have capital punishment for the bulk of that time used a three drug cocktail. But in 2011, the European Union began prohibiting European based company that makes the active ingredient in the cocktail from shipping the drug to the United States for use in lethal injections.
So Texas and other states turned to another drug, the sedative pentobarbital. Texas executed its first condemned convict using pentobarbital in 2012.
But the state quickly ran out of pentobarbital, and the company that makes the drug is based in Denmark, leading it that drug being restricted by the EU for use in lethal injections. In fact, most drug manufactures, who make their product to save and improve lives, are increasingly reluctant to sell the drug for use in executions.
Texas last year was forced to secretly buy five doses of Pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy in the Houston suburb of The Woodlands. As soon as the pharmacist learned who the actual buyer of the drugs was, the shipment was ordered in the name of the non existent 'Huntsville Hospital,' he demanded that the drugs be returned to him, and the state refused.
But Clark says if the state does run out of lethal injection drugs, there is no backup.
"Our protocol calls for lethal injection," he said. "That's what we use."
Will 2014 be the year that the most prolific death chamber in the country grinds to a halt? Some states have switched to new drug cocktails, with sometimes unpleasant results.
There is talk that a shortage of death drugs could do what three decades of protests and legal challenges could not do...bring capital punishment to an end in Texas.