Missouri May Have to Out Execution Druggist

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) – Missouri may have to release the name of the pharmacy that supplies its execution drug, a state judge ruled Wednesday.
     The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Missouri Department of Corrections in 2014, claiming the state violated the Sunshine Law by refusing to release the name of the pharmacy.
     After a temporary moratorium on executions while it revised its execution protocol from a three-drug cocktail, Missouri resumed executions in November 2013 using a single drug – pentobarbital obtained from a compounding pharmacy. Since then, Missouri has executed 17 inmates, the latest one Tuesday. Only Texas has performed more executions in that time.
     The plaintiffs submitted several Sunshine Law requests from November 2013 through March 2014, seeking the name of the compounding pharmacy supplying the pentobarbital.
     Missouri refused all of them, claiming the pharmacy was part of the execution team and entitled to anonymity.
     But Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled Wednesday that Missouri lacks the authority to add the pharmacy to the execution team.
     “The fact that defendant’s execution protocol, revised as of October 2013, purports to name a compounding pharmacy to the ‘execution team’ does not control whether records may be closed under Sunshine Law,” Beetem wrote. “The DOC was not authorized by statute to add pharmacies or laboratories to the ‘execution team’ that is set forth in its execution protocol.”
     But Beetem stopped short of providing the plaintiffs the information they want.
     “However, because whether or not a particular person meets the statutory definition of an execution team member and therefore whether such a person could be identified by disclosure of a record is a question of fact unresolved by this motion, plaintiff[s] may not be entitled to the blanket remedy they seek,” Beetem wrote.
     He placed the case on an Aug. 28 docket to schedule further proceedings.
     Still, the ACLU considers the decision a victory.
     “After today’s decision, the Missouri Department of Corrections can no longer hide behind Missouri statutes and refuse the public’s right to know where it obtains execution drugs,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “The public has a right to know the source of the illegal drugs the state uses to kill people in the public’s name.”
     The decision was obtained late Thursday by Courthouse News after business hours, so state officials were not available for comment.

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