That's the title of an editorial published in today's Houston Chronicle. It's subtitled, "We should know where our state is spending tax dollars used to buy death-row drugs." Here's the beginning:
Attorney General Greg Abbott may be a partisan figure, but he boasts two habits that earn him respect across the board: sticking to his word and supporting transparency in government. So Texans of all stripes should be particularly distressed by his office's recent rejection of an open records request concerning the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
With an increasing number of pharmacies unwilling to provide the drugs necessary for lethal injections, states have had to look elsewhere for the darkly ironic combination of something that is both deadly and safe. Executions cannot be cruel nor unusual - a difficult standard to meet.
Yet recent open records requests for information on the deadly cocktails that Texas plans to use on death row have hit a brick wall at Abbott's office. With this decision to shut the doors to open government, Abbott flip-flops on his proud record of rejecting government secrecy.
"TDCJ Viewing Policy Reduces Witnesses to Executions," is by Terri Langford for the Texas Tribune.
At a time when a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma and secrecy about how Texas prisons obtain lethal injection drugs have increased public scrutiny of the procedure, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is allowing fewer media outlets to attend executions.
There are only five media seats available in one of two tiny viewing rooms adjacent to the Texas execution chamber in Huntsville. While some of those seats have long been reserved for specific media outlets, the TDCJ has in the past allowed other reporters to fill empty chairs when those journalists couldn't attend. Now, those seats remain empty, reducing the number of witnesses in the nation's busiest death chamber.
About two to three years ago, TDCJ public affairs officials began more strictly apportioning media seats, said Jason Clark, who became the agency's chief spokesman in 2013. The media seats in the viewing room are the only way members of the public who aren't related to the murder victim or the condemned inmate can obtain independent observations of the controversial procedure.
Just before a last-minute stay halted TDCJ’s execution of Robert James Campbell last month — the nation’s first execution scheduled after the mishandled April 29 execution in Oklahoma of Clayton Lockett — eight media members had requested a seat in the witness room. TDCJ approved seats for reporters from the Associated Press, The Huntsville Item and Houston Chronicle, and from two Houston-area TV stations. Requests from reporters for ABC News, The New York Times and The Texas Tribune were denied, and they would not have been allowed to attend even if the other reporters were unable to.
Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1982, TDCJ has usually reserved two of the five media seats in the execution viewing room, one for the Associated Press and one for The Huntsville Item.
Decades ago, the other three seats could be taken by others who asked, with preference to journalists who were based in the region where the crime occurred.
Earlier coverage begins at the link.