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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Missouri Must Identify Execution Drug Providers

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) - Missouri must identify the pharmacists who supply drugs used in state executions, a state judge ruled.

In a scathing 9-page opinion, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon E. Beetem found that the state "purposely violated the Sunshine Law."

Guardian News and Media and other media outlets sued the state in 2014 seeking to learn more about Missouri's new lethal injection process. Missouri switched to pentobarbital from a three drug cocktail beginning with an execution in November 2013 after pharmacies stopped supplying the drugs needed for the cocktail.

Part of the lawsuit sought to find the identity of the pharmacists supplying the pentobarbital.

Missouri argued that the pharmacists were part of the execution team and therefore were entitled to anonymity.

Beetem noted that the state's Sunshine Law provided an exception for records that identify members of the execution team, including those who administer the execution or provide support for the execution.

But Beetem found it "does not create a Sunshine Law exemption for records that identify or might identify the entities that supply the execution drugs."

Beetem also found that Missouri's Department of Corrections "knowingly violated the Sunshine Law by failing to comply with statutory time limits, withholding whole categories of requested documents without justification, refusing to provide redacted records, and citing irrelevant exceptions to the Sunshine Law to justify withholding responsive documents."

The ruling, issued Monday, also found that Missouri also refused to release other documents that were already in the public domain. By doing so, Beetem wrote, "the Missouri Department of Corrections purposely violated the Sunshine Law."

Beetem also awarded the plaintiffs $73,335.41 for attorney fees, finding that state law provides for such an award when a governmental body purposely violates the Sunshine Law.

A spokeswoman for Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the ruling was under review.

Missouri is one of 31 states that have capital punishment. Missouri executed 17 prisoners from November 2013, when it switched to pentobarbital, to July 2015 - second only to Texas during that span.

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