Media organizations launch lawsuit over Missouri lethal injection secrecy

BY Justin Scuiletti  May 15, 2014 at 12:33 PM EDT

The Associated Press, The Guardian U.S., The Kansas City Star, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Springfield News-Leader filed a lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Corrections Thursday, claiming that the state’s secrecy in procuring lethal injection drugs prevents public oversight for the death penalty.

The suit aims for state judges to intervene and put a stop to the withholding of this information.

“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,” said Dave Schulz, the attorney for the five news organizations.

The lawsuit claims that by denying requests regarding the ingredients and concentrations of the cocktail used in the executions of inmates, the Department of Corrections is violating the Missouri Sunshine Law, which states that “meetings, records, votes, actions and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law.” The lawsuit also argues that public disclosure of the drug information, under the first amendment, “reduces the risk that improper, ineffective or defectively prepared drugs are used.”

The death penalty via lethal injection has come under scrutiny after a botched April 29 execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett due to the use of a new, untested mixture of drugs.