On Sept. 2, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri (ACLU of Missouri) filed its sixth lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Corrections (MODOC) seeking documents regarding the state’s execution protocol and policies. This lawsuit regards the process used to select witnesses for executions.
The ACLU of Missouri is seeking copies of requests by the public or the media to witness executions, the MODOC’s responses to those requests, and all records indicating the actual witnesses to executions over the past 12 months. “So far, all we have received are a handful of heavily censored documents,” explains Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “We want to know if the Missouri Department of Corrections is selecting witnesses in an impartial manner, which is questionable given that potential candidates are first asked their position on the death penalty.”
“Witnesses are the eyes of the public and they ensure that those executed do not suffer when the state metes out the ultimate punishment in our name,” says ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey A. Mittman. “We need to be able to trust that our witnesses will give us a fair and unbiased account.”
Update: Dec. 31, 2015
The Circuit Court of Cole County ruled that the Missouri Department of Corrections (MODOC) knowingly violated the Sunshine Law by refusing to provide information related to the state’s execution witness selection process.