News Organizations File Suit to Obtain Execution Drug Information

On May 15, the Associated Press and four other media organizations filed suit against the state of Missouri, asking a state court to order the Department of Corrections (DOC) to release information about the source of its lethal injection drugs. Under Missouri law, the identity of the “execution team” is secret, and the DOC has interpreted the drug supplier to be a part of that team. The other four news organizations are the Guardian-U.S., the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Kansas City Star, and the Springfield News-Leader. The news organizations filed public records requests with the DOC, asking for information about the drug itself, its source, quality testing, and the qualifications of those who prepared it. They were given a copy of the execution protocol, but told that the other records were closed, “pursuant to the state secret doctrine.” Dave Schulz, an attorney for the news organizations and co-director of the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School, said, “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.”

Missouri is planning to execute Russell Bucklew on May 21 (just after midnight) using drugs from an undisclosed source. Doctors have raised concerns that Bucklew’s physical condition might result in severe pain during the execution. Bucklew’s attorneys have asked that the execution be videotaped as a way to preserve evidence about the process.

(J. Salter, “Media file lawsuit to challenge execution secrecy,” Associated Press, May 15, 2014). Read the media’s Petition. See Lethal Injection.