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Judge: Missouri broke the law by concealing execution drug supplier

By Allison Wrabel

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem ruled that the Missouri Department of Corrections violated the Sunshine Law when it failed to reveal the name of the pharmacy that supplies the drugs for lethal injections.

Under state law, the identities of individual execution team members are to be kept confidential. In 2013, the department added a compounding pharmacy to the team.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and reporter Chris McDaniel, formerly of St. Louis Public Radio and now at Buzzfeed, sued the state in May 2014 after they were denied requests for records about the laboratories and pharmacies.

Judge Beetem said the law does not allow the department to "define the execution team as it wishes, without limitation." The law says the execution team is limited to "persons who administer lethal gas or chemicals" and "persons who provide direct support for the administration of lethal gas or chemicals." The court concluded that pharmacies and laboratories are entities, not "persons." In addition, the pharmacies and laboratories are not "administering," or providing "direct support for the administration."

Last week, Judge Beetem ruled in a similar suit filed by former state lawmaker Joan Bray that the department violated the Sunshine Law. A pending third suit filed by other media companies asked a judge to order the Department of Corrections to make public where it purchases drugs for executions and disclose details about the composition and quality of the drugs.

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