Move to Shield Death Penalty Info Dies in Va.

     RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – A Virginia senate bill that would have excluded certain aspects of the state’s lethal injection practices from FOIA requests died on the floor of the House of Delegates.
     The bill, which was narrowly rejected by a 56-42 vote, would have restricted information identifying the compounds and procedures used in lethal injection drugs, as well as the identities of drug manufacturers and lethal injection technicians.
     Opponents of the bill said withholding information about drug components and sources would pose a threat to the constitutional rights of the condemned.
     Virginia State Senator Richard Saslaw proposed the bill as a solution to the state’s limited supply of lethal injection drugs midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride, which he projected will expire in September 2015.
     But Delegate Scott Surovell voiced his concerns about the bill in an interview with CNS.
     “The vote had very little to do with the death penalty. It had to do with a lot of members feeling uncomfortable about government secrecy,” Surovell said.
     The lawmaker currently has a pending FOIA suit against the Virginia Department of Corrections. After a Fairfax court ruled in his favor last year, Surovell says the Department of Corrections appealed the decision, which will be heard this spring in Virginia’s Supreme Court.
     Surovell wants to know exactly how much of the lethal injection drugs remain.
     “It was sort of unclear to me whether it would have affected the future but now that the bill has been killed, it shouldn’t affect the case,” he told CNS. “The law was never written to be retroactive, it wasn’t ever clear to me whether it would affect future decisions.”
     “The execution of a human being is about a significant a government act as there is,” said Surovell. “Most people felt that it should be under scrutiny, not in secrecy.”

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