Today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, "ACLU sues to lift secrecy over Missouri execution team," by Jeremy Kohler.
After a Post-Dispatch investigation seven years ago revealed the identity of Missouri’s lead executioner, exposing a history including public discipline from the state medical board and false statements in court, the Legislature took action.
It enacted a law to ban any person from “knowingly disclosing the identity of a current or former member of an execution team.’’
The Department of Corrections announced on Tuesday it was adding a compounding pharmacy to the execution team and invoked the 2007 law protecting the pharmacy’s workers from disclosure.
On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri sued in U.S. District Court in St. Louis to try to overturn the law so “we can post documents that identify execution team members on our website without fear of violating any statutes,” said its legal director, Tony Rothert. Under the law, an executioner whose identity was revealed could file a lawsuit and recover actual and punitive damages from the person who revealed the name.
Missouri has long struggled to find executioners and execution drugs with spotless histories. Most medical professionals and drug companies avoid being associated with taking lives.
ACLU sued the state this month for records of the state’s inventory of propofol, an anesthetic the state had planned to use in lethal injections to execute murderers Allen Nicklasson on Oct. 23 and Joseph Paul Franklin on Nov. 20.
"Civil rights group sues Missouri for concealing suppliers of execution drugs," is by Carey Gillam of Reuters, via the Chicago Tribune.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued Missouri prison officials on Wednesday seeking to force the state to divulge the compounding pharmacies that supply its lethal execution drugs and identities of other members of its death row execution team.
The lawsuit came a day after the state said it would start classifying those pharmacies among the various personnel and entities involved in administering the death penalty in Missouri and thus shielded from public disclosure of their identities.
The lawsuit accuses the state of unconstitutionally censoring information the public has a right to know, including where the state is procuring drugs it uses to put condemned inmates to death.
"The government's trend toward unwarranted secrecy that conceals practices of doubtful constitutionality needs to stop," Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the Missouri unit of the ACLU, said in a statement.
A spokesman for the Missouri Corrections Department did not respond to a request for comment.
"ACLU files suit over secrecy of execution team," is ACLU coverage, via the San Francisco Chronicle.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by the ACLU branch in St. Louis, asks that the court find the statute unconstitutional.
On Tuesday, the Corrections Department announced it was switching to a new lethal injection drug, the sedative pentobarbital, which is also used in executions in 13 other states. The state had planned to use the anesthetic propofol, but Gov. Jay Nixon on Oct. 11 halted all executions until a new drug was found.
The new protocol makes a compounding pharmacy part of the execution team, and the statute protects the anonymity of the pharmacy.
Earlier coverage of Missouri lethal injection issues begins at the link.
Also available, more on Dr. Alan Doerhoff, the physician who participated in Missouri executions.