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Appeals court overturns stay of execution in Texas

The death chamber is seen through the steel bars from the viewing room at the federal penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas in this September 29
The death chamber is seen through the steel bars from the viewing room at the federal penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas in this September 29

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas will carry out the execution of convicted murderer Ramiro Hernandez this week after a U.S. appeals court on Monday ruled that the state does not have to reveal where it gets its lethal injection drug.

Texas is set to execute Hernandez, a 44-year-old Mexican native, on Wednesday for breaking into the home of a couple in 1997, beating a man to death and raping his wife.

A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit Court said the drug used by Texas was effective and there was no compelling evidence that protections provided by the U.S. Constitution would be violated under current procedures.

The 5th Circuit made a similar decision last week when it reversed a stay for another inmate, Tommy Lynn Sells, who was executed last Thursday.

Texas, which has executed more prisoners than any other state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, said last month it had obtained a new batch of the sedative pentobarbital, without disclosing its supplier.

A lower court last week had granted the stay for Hernandez and Sells, saying Texas must first provide the name of the drug supplier to the inmates' legal counsel under seal.

Several states have struggled to obtain drugs for executions, while many pharmaceutical companies, mostly in Europe, have imposed sales bans because they object to having medications made for other purposes used in lethal injections.

The states have looked to alter the chemicals used for lethal injection and to keep the suppliers' identities secret. They have also turned to lightly regulated compounding pharmacies that can mix chemicals.

But lawyers for death row inmates argue drugs from compounding pharmacies can lack purity and potency and cause undue suffering, in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Shumaker)

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