Transparency Watch

News organizations file lawsuits against Missouri for failing to release execution drug records

Missouri's failure to release records regarding the drugs it uses in executions keeps the public from providing oversight of the death penalty. That's what the Associated Press and four other news organizations are arguing in a suit filed Thursday against the state. Another suit filed the same day by a reporter for St. Louis Public Radio, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri also challenges the secrecy.

The journalists say the public has a constitutional right to know what drugs are being used in executions carried out by the state. But the Missouri Department of Corrections maintains that drug providers are part of the "execution team." Under state law, the identity of members of the execution team cannot be disclosed.

The news organizations had previously submitted requests for records that would provide details including the name, source and chemical composition of execution drugs used by the state. They also wanted records that dealt with the "assessment or approval" of these drugs. The state denied these requests "pursuant to the state secret doctrine."

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