Missouri must disclose the names of the pharmacy from which it buys lethal injection drugs, a circuit court judge has ruled in yet another case challenging the Department of Corrections’ refusal to provide such information.
The case was filed last year in Cole County Circuit Court by five news organizations, including The Kansas City Star and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. They argued that without the information, the public can’t provide meaningful oversight over the way Missouri carries out executions.
The case is one of three against the DOC over the issue. The others were brought by former Missouri legislator Joan Bray, a death penalty opponent, and by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the American Civil Liberties Union and Christopher S. McDaniel, formerly of St. Louis Public Radio.
All three cases were argued together. Circuit Judge Jon E. Beetem on Wednesday granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs in the other two cases, so the outcome in the case filed by The Star and The Post-Dispatch was expected.
The plaintiffs in the three cases sued after the DOC denied their requests under the state Sunshine Law for records about the pharmacies and labs that compound and provide the lethal injection drug used to put Missouri inmates to death.
The DOC argued that the pharmacies and labs were part of the execution team and, as such, their names were exempt from disclosure under the Sunshine Law.
Beetem, however, ruled that because the suppliers neither administer nor provide direct support for the administration of lethal injection chemicals, they are not part of the execution team as defined by Missouri law.
“The state can no longer hide their supplier of lethal injection drugs – that’s the bottom line,” said Bernard Rhodes, an attorney representing The Star and the other news organizations. “If you were to make a Sunshine Law request today for the drugs they intend to use to execute Roderick Nunley next month, under this ruling they either have to give them to you or face being sued again, and in that lawsuit I don’t see how they avoid being found purposefully violating the statute and paying attorney’s fees and fines.”
The Missouri Attorney General’s Office, which represents the DOC, said that it is reviewing the rulings.
Source: KCUR, Dan Margolies, July 17, 2015
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