Texas uses new drug for execution

The Supreme Court has blocked the first scheduled execution of an inmate in Texas using pentobarbital.

Cleve Foster, 47, was to have been executed last night for the 2002 slaying of a Sudanese woman in Fort Worth – the first Texas execution since the state switched to pentobarbital in its lethal three-drug mixture. But yesterday morning, the top US court agreed to reconsider its January order denying his appeal. That appeal raised claims of innocence and poor legal help during his trial and in the early stages of his appeals.

Foster's lawyers also argued that Texas prison officials violated administrative procedures when they announced the switch to pentobarbital from sodium thiopental.

There is a national shortage of sodium thiopental, which has been used already in executions in Oklahoma and Ohio. The Department of Criminal Justice, like other corrections agencies around America, has been unable to find a supplier of sodium thiopental, one of the three drugs it has been using in a lethal chemical mixture.

The department announced last month it would begin using the Danish-made pentobarbital as a substitute. The sedative is used in surgery and to put down animals. It is already used in executions in Ohio and Oklahoma. In an interview from death row, Foster said he thought Texas's decision was wrong.