Media file lawsuit to challenge execution secrecy

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 15, 2014 at 11:29 am •  Published: May 15, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Associated Press and four other news organizations filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the secret way in which Missouri obtains the drugs it uses in lethal injections, arguing the state's actions prohibit public oversight of the death penalty.

The lawsuit asks a state court judge to order the Missouri Department of Corrections to disclose where it purchases drugs used to carry out executions along with details about the composition and quality of those drugs.

"We assert that there is a constitutional right for the public to know the drugs that are used when a state puts someone to death," said Dave Schulz, an attorney for the news organizations and co-director of the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School.

A spokeswoman for Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, Nanci Gonder, declined to comment when asked Thursday about the lawsuit.

Missouri is among the many U.S. states that refuse to disclose where they purchase execution drugs, their makeup and how they are tested.

The sourcing of execution drugs has become an issue nationwide since major drugmakers, many based in Europe, began to refuse selling their products if they were to be used in an execution.

Many states have turned to compounding pharmacies, which are not as heavily regulated as traditional pharmaceutical companies but are able to make the required drugs. Several have refused to name their supplier, sometimes citing security concerns and threats to the pharmacies.

Asked about these threats, law enforcement officials in several states have told the AP they do not know about them, are not actively investigating them or do not consider them to be serious.

Missouri law prohibits naming anyone who is part of the "execution team." The Missouri Department of Corrections considers the drug provider part of that team.

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