NEW VOICES: Attorney General Criticizes Secrecy in Lethal Injections

On July 31, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke about the death penalty review underway at the Department of Justice and the need for greater transparency in lethal injection methods. Holder said he was “greatly troubled” by the recent botched executions, adding that states should provide more information about the drugs they plan to use. He said, “[F]or the state to exercise that greatest of all powers, to end a human life, it seems to me… that transparency would be a good thing, and to share the information about what chemicals are being used, what drugs are being used. And it would seem to me that would be a better way to do this.” He added, “[T]here is an obligation, it seems to me, on the part of the executive branch that’s charged with that responsibility to be forthcoming about the mechanisms, the means by which this most serious of executive branch actions can be carried out.” On the progress of the death penalty review ordered by President Obama, Holder said, “We have people from our Civil Rights Division, our Criminal Division, various other components within the department looking at our protocol and taking into account what we have seen happen in the states recently, as we try to work our way through how the federal government is going to impose the death penalty.”

Holder added that the federal government’s review of past mistakes regarding FBI testimony in state trials should serve as an example for states, “[W]here we find mistakes, we admit those mistakes, we correct them. And I think we set an example for the states. They should make the same kind of inquiries. Where they have made mistakes, they should correct them as well.”

(G. Ifill interview, “Holder: DOJ needs Congress’ support to reduce immigration backlog,” PBS (transcript), July 31, 2014). See New Voices, Lethal Injection, and Federal Death Penalty.