"Corrections chief defends Missouri's execution process," is by Jordan Shapiro of Associated Press, via the Springfield News-Leader. It's also available via the Daily Record.
Missouri’s top corrections official defended the state’s execution procedures while telling lawmakers Monday the state could not carry out lethal injections if the name of the company that provides the execution drug wasn’t kept secret.
Corrections Department Director George Lombardi told a House panel that it was vital to protect the identity of all those involved in executions, including the drug supplier.
“They made it very clear to us that we would not have people to carry out the mandated statutory requirement of the death penalty. They just wouldn’t do it,” Lombardi said.
Kansas City attorney Joseph Luby, who represents death row inmates, told the House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee that the protocol prevents defendants from getting information that would be critical in appealing their sentences. He said the department’s decision to not reveal the compounding pharmacy’s identity was “sleazy.”
“The department’s methods, contracts and practices have been shrouded in secrecy in a way that prevents meaningful public scrutiny,” he said.
Luby also raised concerns that the last three lethal injections in Missouri had been conducted while the inmates’ attorneys were in the process of asking a federal court for a stay.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, "Department head defends execution protocols to Missouri representatives," by Marie French.
At a two-and-a-half-hour hearing, Lombardi defended the state’s embattled execution process, while fielding questions from lawmakers about transparency and legal issues. Many of the legislators asked about a compounding pharmacy in Oklahoma that produces the state’s execution drug. The pharmacy is not licensed to do business in Missouri, leading to questions about the department has acted legally to buy the drugs.
Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, chairman of the government accountability committee, said regardless of opinions on the death penalty itself, executions should be carried out in compliance with all laws and the Constitution.
Joseph Luby, an attorney with the Kansas City-based Death Penalty Litigation Center, said the secrecy surrounding the department’s procurement of the lethal-injection drug pentobarbital prevented public scrutiny. Luby said defendants were unable to demonstrate whether the drug caused pain beyond what’s allowable according to previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
“The more general problem is just that there are all kinds of shenanigans that stem” from the secrecy, Luby said, calling some of the department’s actions “sleazy.” He pointed to the cash delivery for a no-bid contract on the drug, calling the employee who carried the exchange out a “drug mule.”
"After Controversy Surrounding Executions, State Officials Testify Before House Committee," is by Chris McDaniel of St. Louis Public Radio.
Despite the controversy over how Missouri has carried out its past three executions, a state House hearing on Monday revealed little that hasn't already been reported:
- The Department of Corrections has been obtaining its execution drug from an Oklahoma compounding pharmacy that the state tried unsuccessfully to keep secret.
- A high-ranking Corrections official has been transporting thousands of dollars in cash to this Oklahoma pharmacy.
“Yes, it is cash money,” said George Lombardi, Corrections director, at the hearing. “That has been happening, I want to add, since the Ashcroft administration (and) through every governor.”
While Lombardi is correct that members of the "execution team" have previously been paid in cash, this situation is different. For the first time, the "execution team" has members who do not participate in carrying out the execution -- members who aren't even present for the execution.
"The most charitable way I can characterize [the state's] actions are to call them sleazy," attorney Joseph Luby said at the hearing. He's representing numerous inmates still on death row, alleging that the state's execution method amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the 8th Amendment.
"Missouri corrections chief defends secrecy surrounding execution drug," is by Jason Hancock of the Kansas City Star.
Lombardi, in testimony to a state House committee, also defended the state’s practice of paying the pharmacy in cash. Several lawmakers have questioned the practice — some going so far as to suggest outlawing it — but Lombardi said those who assist in executions insist on cash payments to protect their identities. They would refuse to participate otherwise, he said.
“If we outlaw cash payments, what you’re doing is de facto abolition of the death penalty in Missouri,” Lombardi said.
Kansas City lawyer Joseph Luby, who represents death-row inmates, said the secrecy prevents defendants from getting information that would be critical in appealing their sentences.
The next person scheduled to be executed in Missouri is Michael Taylor. He was convicted of raping and murdering Ann Harrison, 15, after abducting her from a school bus stop in Raytown in 1989. His execution is scheduled for Feb. 26.
Earlier coverage from Missouri begins at the link.