Info Demanded on State’s Execution Protocol

     JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) – The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press joined the ACLU in its latest bid to force the Missouri Department of Corrections to reveal details of its new execution protocol.
     The Reporters Committee, the ACLU and journalist Chris McDaniel sued the Department of Corrections in Cole County Court on Thursday.
     The plaintiffs claim the state violated the Sunshine Law by not providing requested documents regarding the state’s execution protocol.
     “With lethal injection methods at the forefront of national and international debate, it is critical that the public be able to engage in a fully informed discussion about the issue,” Reporters Committee Executive Director Bruce D. Brown said in a statement. “Missouri and other states would rather keep the public in the dark about the safety and efficacy of lethal drugs. But we believe it is time for the media and the public to start challenging these states, and Missouri is the first step in our multistate effort to enforce Sunshine Laws and increase public access.”
     In October, Missouri announced that it would switch to using pentobarbital from an unidentified compounding pharmacy as the state’s method of lethal injection. Since then, Missouri has averaged about one execution a month.
     Death penalty opponents say that using improperly stored pentobarbital could create cruel and unusual punishment.
     Despite numerous legal efforts to shed light on the execution protocol, a federal appeals court ruled in January that unless a convicted murderer suggests a more humane execution, the plaintiffs are not entitled to more information.
     This lawsuit is the ACLU’s latest attempt to shed light on the state’s protocol. Last month, Courthouse News Service and more than a dozen other news organizations joined the ACLU in an attempt to recover records on the November 2013 execution of Joseph Franklin.
     In this latest lawsuit, the ACLU seeks declaratory judgment that the records requested are public documents, and it wants the DOC ordered to produce them.
     The requested documents include all records and communications between the DOC and the unidentified compounding pharmacy that provides Missouri the pentobarbital.
     Missouri’s next execution is set for May 21. The condemned, Russell Bucklew, filed a lawsuit on May 9 claiming a medical condition could cause cruel and unusual punishment during his execution.

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