A Missouri state judge on Monday ordered [text] the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) [official website] to disclose the source of the execution drug used by the state in order to comply with the Missouri sunshine law [text, PDF]. The court found that the DOC was intentionally refusing to release the information about which pharmacy or entity was supplying drugs used in state executions because they believed the scrutiny would impact the availability of the drug and the ability to carry out further executions. While the DOC argued that the identity of the supplier should have similar protections as the medical staff, the court ruled that suppliers were not privileged to such privacy protections. The court found that the DOC had consistently refused to respond to media requests about the identity of the supplier and the execution drug information:
[The] DOC knowingly violated the Sunshine Law by failing to comply with statutory time limits, withholding whole categories of requested documents without justiification, refusing to provide redacted records, and citing irrelevant exceptions to the Sunshine Law to justify withholding responsive documents. … DOC also knowingly violated the Sunshine Law by refusing to disclose records that would reveal the suppliers of lethal injection drugs, because its refusal was based on an interpretation of Missouri Revised Statutes section 546.720 that was clearly contrary to law. … Further, subsequent factfinding has shown that DOC purposely refused to disclose responsive documents that were publicly available.
The judge held that because the parties knowingly violated the sunshine laws by refusing to disclose the information and therefore must also pay legal fees. However, the ruling is set aside until at the application process is exhausted.
Capital punishment [JURIST op-ed] remains a controversial issue in the US and worldwide. In February the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] rejected [opinion, PDF] a Georgia death row inmate’s legal challenge to the death penalty. In January Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood [official website] stated that he plans to ask lawmakers to approve the firing squad, electrocution or nitrogen gas as alternate methods of execution [press release] if the state prohibits lethal injection. The US Supreme Court in January ruled [JURIST report] in Kansas v. Carr [opinion, PDF] that a jury in a death penalty case does not need to be advised that mitigating factors, which can lessen the severity of a criminal act, do not need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt like aggravating factors.