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Missouri governor signs law keeping identities of executioners confidential

[JURIST] Missouri Governor Matt Blunt [official website] Monday announced the signing of a bill [HB 820 text] intended to protect the identities of individuals [press release] who provide direct support for the administration of the death penalty, formally prohibiting the disclosure of executioners' identities and creating a civil cause of action to recover damages against anyone who discloses an executioner's identity. The law, which was signed in private by Blunt last Saturday, will also prohibit any licensing board or department from taking punitive actions against individuals who participated in a lawful execution. Critics of the bill allege that it erodes the transparency of the death penalty [JURIST news archive] process and inhibits essential oversight, while supporters say the bill is necessary to protect individuals from being personally harassed for doing their jobs.

In June, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled unanimously that Missouri's lethal injection procedures do not violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. The decision paved the way for the resumption of executions, which had been effectively suspended [JURIST report] since February 2006 after an inmate challenged the procedure in federal court. The Missouri Department of Corrections [official website] says that it has executed 66 inmates since 1976. AP has more.

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