SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Last July, Texas officials declared a statewide crisis that presaged the need for a radical overhaul of their existing penal system, once touted as a national model of cold, streamlined efficiencies to rival any assembly process used in the country today. A spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice told reporters at the time: "We have exhausted our supply of pancuronium bromide needed to perform lethal injections. Soon, we'll be left with only pentobarbital. When that runs out, Lord only knows what we're going to do." Texas depleted its stores of sodium thiopental just months later, forcing executioners to rely on a single-drug cocktail. On Friday, the state's worst fears came to pass as experts announced that the remaining supply of pentobarbital would run out in September. Curiously, sources say officials have requested to meet with George Zimmerman, who was pulled over last weekend for speeding in the northern part of the state.
Until recently, Texas had been using the standard three-drug cocktail to carry out executions, but it burned through its usable staple of the two main drugs last year. The state switched to pentobarbital exclusively, a sedative commonly applied in the euthanization of animals.
Because animals in the state of Texas are put down by more conventional means that include military-grade firearms at point-blank range, assault rifles, hunting knives, motor vehicles and heavy explosives, officials believed the rations of pentobarbital would last. Texas veterinarians claimed they had little use for the drug, pointing out that pet owners and their neighbors prefer to euthanize the creatures themselves.
Pentobarbital has already been adopted in over 20 states. It is considered an anesthetic and normally functions as just one ingredient in the standard three-cocktail model. The basic process involves the administration of the anesthetic first to render victims unconscious. Then a second drug stops respiratory functions, followed by a third drug that stops the heart.
In the single-drug method, correctional professionals provide the condemned inmates with a massive overdose of pentobarbital, the barbiturate generally responsible for putting them to sleep when delivered in a normal dosage.
"It ain't pretty -- a little tortuous to watch 'cause the bodies tend to thrash and convulse a helluva lot more -- but it works pretty much the same, I reckon," said Wash Hoburn, a deputy warden based in Nacogdoches. "Just don't always happen in the same order."
Hoburn praised the process for saving time and money because it requires just one shot with a single syringe.
"The chemicals go into the prisoner's veins -- when we can find them...takes hours sometimes -- and them drugs just start beating the holy hell out of the breathing system," he explained. "Paralyzes the diaphragm and collapses the lungs, which leads to what the medical folks call respiratory arrest. Once that happens, the convicts slip into an unconscious state. And after that, the stress of their body fighting to breathe and struggling to keep all them organs working just tuckers out their heart. Or, and this happens a lot too, they choke to death on their vomit. Round here, we call that the 'Rockstar.'"
Texas executes more people, including convicted murderers, than any other state in the country. Over 500 inmates have met their demise at the hands of a Lone Star "hangman" since 1982. The state has already put 11 inmates to death since January. At least five additional executions are planned for this year -- even more, officials believe, if the state approves zoning permits for a spate of new schools specializing in the care of the mentally challenged.
"We will be unable to use our current supply of pentobarbital after it expires,'' the Department of Criminal Justice spokesperson said. "We are exploring all options at this time."
Many correctional officers say they have no choice but to switch to "more traditional methods" in order to accommodate the impacted list of people awaiting capital punishment over the next few months.
When asked about alternatives after the supply of pentobarbital expires, Wash Hoburn laughed and said: "We're fixing to come up with some ideas outside the box. The electric chair is out, especially with all this green energy hogwash in Washington. Gas chamber's way too expensive, and the feds won't let us return to firing squads or hangings. Right now, we're thinking about putting death row inmates in a big coliseum of sorts, with some of them wild bears and bobcats that's been giving us trouble, and letting them sort out their own ends. But our most likely course of action will be to get George Zimmerman involved."
Hoburn hopes to expedite the prisoner termination process by capitalizing on George Zimmerman's legally sanctioned ability to kill with impunity, a status conferred on him by Florida after his acquittal in the shooting death of an unarmed teenager under the state's Stand Your Ground legislation.
"This Zimmerman guy is scared of practically everything and everyone, he's got a hair-trigger and a license to kill, and he's apparently been driving around Texas fully armed," Hoburn said. "The timing couldn't be more perfect."
Zimmerman was pulled over for speeding on Sunday near Dallas. When asked where he was traveling, Zimmerman reportedly told the officer, "No place in particular." He was released on a warning and cautioned to keep his firearm in the glovebox. Officials are currently trying to locate Zimmerman for a "strategic conversation" and possible job opportunity.
2013. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. See disclaimers.