Excerpts from Dissent Regarding Secrecy of Lethal Injection Drugs

In a dissent from a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit allowing Missouri's execution of Michael Taylor on February 26, three judges sharply criticized the secrecy of Missouri's lethal injection protocol as a violation of Taylor's right to due process. The dissenters would have stayed the execution to allow Taylor to obtain information about the source of the execution drugs:

  • "Because Taylor seeks to determine whether the drug to be used in his execution will result in pain or in a lingering death, it bears repeating the importance of the identities of the pharmacists, laboratories, and drug suppliers in determining whether Missouri's execution of death row inmates is constitutional."
  • "[F]rom the absolute dearth of information Missouri has disclosed to this court, the 'pharmacy' on which Missouri relies could be nothing more than a high school chemistry class."
  • "If through lack of experience or lack of time to do adequate testing, the pharmacy has manufactured something which is quite painful, Taylor's constitutional rights would be violated."
  • "Missouri has a storied history of ignoring death row inmates' constitutional rights to federal review of their executions. I once again fear Missouri elevates the ends over the means in its rush to execute Taylor."
  • "Nothing Taylor asks for would place an undue burden on Missouri. He simply seeks transparency concerning the manufacturer of the chemical used to execute a death sentence and testing of the chemical for identity, potency, purity, and contamination. Considering the enormity of the issues at stake, this is a burden which is entirely due."
  • "Missouri has again, at the eleventh hour, amended its procedure and again is 'using [a] shadow pharmac[y] hidden behind the hangman's hood' and 'copycat pharmaceuticals' to execute another death row inmate." (citations omitted).

(Zink, et al. v. Lombardi, et al., No. 14-1388 (8th Cir., Feb. 25, 2014) (Bye, J., dissenting, joined by JJ. Kelly and Murphy). See Lethal Injection and Arbitrariness.