The ACLU of Missouri filed a complaint in federal court challenging the Missouri Department of Corrections' process for selecting witnesses for executions. 

Since he applied to witness a Missouri execution in January 2014, investigative journalist Christopher S. McDaniel has yet to receive a response to his application from the Missouri Department of Corrections, effectively denying him the opportunity to witness any of the 17 executions that the state has carried out since he submitted his application.

The request approval is solely at the discretion of the director of the Missouri Department of Corrections.

McDaniel’s reporting has exposed disturbing and potentially illegal practices with regard to the death penalty in Missouri.  

 The ACLU of Missouri submitted a public records request to the Missouri Department of Corrections for copies of applications to witness executions.  The department eventually turned over the applications, but only after litigation was required to compel it to comply with state law.  Upon review of the applications, it was discovered that every applicant who, like McDaniel, expressed a desire to ensure that executions were carried out properly and constitutionally, was denied the opportunity to witness an execution.


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Jessie Steffan, Anthony E. Rothert, Gillian R. Wilcox

Date filed

August 31, 2016


Missouri Western District Court, Central Division