The public has a right to know the source of Missouri's lethal injection drugs, according to a lawsuit filed on Thursday by the Associated Press, the Guardian, and three other news organizations in the state. Missouri is one of several states implementing new secrecy policies concerning the source of its drugs, after successful boycott campaigns have made it harder and harder for death penalty states to procure lethal injection cocktails. The lawsuit argues that these policies violate right to public access, as protected in the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment, along with the state's own public records laws. The state has executed six individuals since cloaking the identity of the state's drug providers last October.
The petition filed to the Cole County circuit court in the state specifically references what is now the most high-profile execution case involving drug source secrecy: the botched Oklahoma execution of Clayton Lockett, which subsequently resulted in a stay of executions there while an investigation into Department of Corrections proceedings is pending. "The public cannot meaningfully debate the propriety of lethal injection executions," the document reads, "if it is denied access to this essential information about how individuals are being put to death by the State... this was true before the recent execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett using a secret drug formulation obtained from secret sources."
Missouri hid the identity of its drug provider — which is almost certainly an unnamed compounding pharmacy — by expanding its "black hood" protections for state workers participating in the state's lethal injection procedures. Earlier, the state scrapped a plan to try out propofol as an execution drug. Propofol is best-known as the drug blamed for the death of Michael Jackson. It's untested as a lethal injection drug for death penalty cases. Currently, the state uses pentobarbital from an unknown source.
The Guardian has previously identified 13 states keeping quiet on all or most information on their lethal injection drugs from the public since the main source of pentobarbital for U.S. executions stopped providing it for that purpose. They include Texas, Missouri, Florida, and Oklahoma, all of whom have executed prisoners this year. Georgia has a state law classifying the source and method of the state's lethal injection proceedings, which is currently awaiting a ruling from the state Supreme Court.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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