Blog by: Jeffrey A. Mittman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Missouri
Recent news shows exactly why public access to government records is vital to keeping government accountable. Just 46 days after the ACLU filed a Sunshine Law request with the Missouri Department of Corrections, Gov. Jay Nixon postponed an upcoming execution and demanded a new protocol for lethal injection.
Missouri had plans to be the first state to use propofol, a common anesthetic, for an execution on Oct. 23. The ACLU was curious how MODOC received its supply of propofol when the manufacturers refuse to sell to corrections departments. In late August, we filed a Sunshine Law request for copies of public records showing MODOC's current inventory of propofol, expiration dates, purchase orders and prices paid.
On Oct. 4, when more than five weeks had passed without the records, we filed a Sunshine Law request lawsuit.
Four days later, the state submitted 139 pages of records, which we promptly posted on this website. Investigative journalists poured through the documents and generated news stories that made headlines around the world. The tipping point may have been when the European drug manufacturer of propofol – a common anesthetic – threatened to stop the export of all propofol to the United States if the drug was used in an execution.
Gov. Nixon's halt of the Oct. 23 execution is only the beginning. MODOC will be scrambling to develop a new lethal injection protocol before its next slated execution on Nov. 20. We hope that any new protocol will be developed openly and with public feedback, so Missourians are confident that their government is behaving legally and ethically when making life and death decisions on their behalf.
Tell Gov. Nixon that Missourians deserve to have public input when creating this new protocol for administering the death penalty.