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Federal Court Clears Path for Disclosure of Missouri Lethal Injection Methods

Condemned prisoners in Mississippi seek the information from Missouri, Georgia and Texas

NEW ORLEANS – U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough of the Western District of Missouri has denied a motion filed by the Missouri Department of Corrections to quash a deposition and subpoena seeking information about Missouri’s use of pentobarbital in a single-drug protocol for lethal injection executions. Missouri’s Department of Corrections must now answer questions and share documents about its death penalty protocols.

As part of their civil rights lawsuit to stop Mississippi’s use of a three-drug combination that causes a torturous death, Mississippi Death Row inmates Richard Jordan and Ricky Chase seek evidence about the barbiturate-only method of execution used in Missouri and other states. But Missouri is one of several death penalty states that blocks the public from knowing the details of the state’s lethal injection process. In responding to the MacArthur Justice Center’s subpoena, the Missouri Department of Corrections claimed that public disclosure of the exact drugs used and the suppliers of those drugs would lead to threats, intimidation and harassment of those suppliers, and thus make the purchase of lethal injection drugs impossible.

Judge Bough agreed with MacArthur Justice Center lawyers Jim Craig and Emily Washington of New Orleans that Missouri’s fears were based on hearsay and speculation. Attorneys Amy Breihan and Mae Quinn from the MacArthur Justice Center’s new St. Louis Office, similarly concerned with the lack of transparency around the administration of the death penalty in Missouri, joined as local counsel. Judge Bough has ordered the Missouri department to produce the information and be questioned under oath. The Missouri Department of Corrections is expected to appeal.

“This is a victory for basic fairness in the criminal justice system and for transparency in government,” Craig said. “Under recent Supreme Court decisions, Richard Jordan and Ricky Chase must show that there is an alternative to Mississippi’s use of a paralytic agent and potassium chloride, drugs which cause conscious suffocation and intense internal burning if the prisoner is not first anesthetized to unconsciousness. Due process requires that these two men be given access to proof that such alternatives exist. Missouri’s lethal drug suppliers are selling to a public agency; they cannot expect their sales to be kept a secret from the public, let alone prisoners who need that information to prove that Mississippi’s execution procedures will cause a severely painful death.”

The MacArthur Justice Center is seeking to lift similar bans in Georgia and Texas.

PDF of Order Denying Motion HERE»

Keywords: lethal injection, Mississippi, Missouri, Richard Jordan, Ricky Chase

Posted in News releases