DALLAS (AP) — Texas will use one drug to carry out executions instead of its usual three-drug method because it has run out of the second drug, prison officials said Tuesday.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice will use just pentobarbital, the agency said in a Tuesday statement to The Associated Press. Pentobarbital is a sedative that is typically the first of three drugs administered.
The agency's stock of the second drug, pancuronium bromide, expired, and it was unable to obtain more, spokesman Jason Clark said.
Clark said other states also now use one drug and courts have upheld the procedure. Inmates in several states have challenged their executions on the basis of what drugs are used.
Texas is the nation's most active death penalty state. It has executed 482 people since the state reinstated capital punishment in 1982. Five people have been executed this year.
"Implementing the change in protocol at this time will ensure that the agency is able to fulfill its statutory responsibility for all executions currently scheduled," Clark said in the statement.
Texas' next execution is scheduled for July 18. Yokamon Hearn was convicted of the 1998 slaying of a 23-year-old stockbroker from Plano, north of Dallas.
Hearn's attorney, Richard Burr, said Tuesday that he was examining the change but had not decided whether to file any new motions over it.
Several states have had difficulty obtaining drugs to carry out executions. Texas prison officials said in May that the state had enough pentobarbital for 23 executions. No executions have taken place since then.
A 5-gram dose — about 3.4 ounces — is the first lethal drug used during each execution in Huntsville, according to Texas execution procedures.
Last year, one of the drugs Texas had used in the process, sodium thiopental, became unavailable when its European supplier bowed to pressure from death penalty opponents and stopped making it. No other vendor could be found, so the drug was replaced by pentobarbital, which is also used to put down animals.
Pancuronium bromide is a muscle relaxant typically used after pentobarbital. The final drug, potassium chloride, stops the heart.
Four other states — Arizona, Idaho, Ohio and Washington — have used a single drug to carry out executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Ohio was the first to use just pentobarbital, for a March 2011 execution.
In April, an Arizona inmate shook for several seconds after receiving a lethal dose of pentobarbital. The drug was used by itself in that case.
Other states have switched to other drugs, including propofol, the anesthetic blamed for Michael Jackson's death, to do single-drug executions.
An inmate on Oklahoma's death row asked a federal court Tuesday to halt his execution because Oklahoma has just one dose of pentobarbital left. Michael Hooper is scheduled to be executed Aug. 14.