St. Louis, Mo. — A judge in the Circuit Court of Cole County ruled today that the Missouri Department of Corrections broke state laws when they failed to respond to a Sunshine Law request to disclose the source of Missouri’s lethal injection drugs.
Missouri DOC officials moved to conceal the source of Missouri’s execution drug after the state was forced to abandon the use of propofol when European manufacturers threatened to cut off the U.S. supply if the drug was used to kill prisoners. Since then, the state has used pentobarbital, the substance commonly used to execute animals in shelters, to execute criminals.
But the source of the pentobarbital has remained shrouded in secrecy since the DOC expanded its own definition of “execution team” within its rules to conceal the pharmacy providing the drug. But today, the court rules ruled that the Missouri law, which requires individual execution team members’ identities be kept confidential, does not permit the DOC to “define the execution team as it wishes, without limitation.”
“After today’s decision, the Missouri Department of Corrections can no longer hide behind Missouri statutes and refuse the public’s right to know where it obtains execution drugs,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “The public has a right to know the source of the illegal drugs the State uses to kill people in the public’s name.”
The decision comes as other entities are seeking legal challenges to Missouri’s execution practices. 19 prisoners have been executed during Gov. Jay Nixon’s time in office, but 17 of those have been since 2013.
Former state lawmaker Joan Bray, along with Empower Missouri and other players, have also filed a suit against the state over its lethal injection, claiming that the use of pentobarbital violates state law and that the use of a compounding pharmacy to obtain the drug is a violation of FDA guidelines. The case, Bray et. al v Missouri Department of Corrections, had its first hearing just last week in Cole County court.
Read the full copy of today’s decision here.
Collin Reischman is the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. To contact Collin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @CMReischman