Due to a European Union ban on selling drugs used in lethal injections, death penalty states now rely on compounding pharmacies, according to Business Insider.
Compounding pharmacies are typically small businesses who produce execution cocktails to order. These compounds are unregulated by the FDA, and their manufacturers are cloaked in secrecy, states ReasonTV.
“Since the 70s, America has tried to sanitize the way it kills people in death chambers by saying that this is an act of medical intervention,” says Ed Pilkington, chief reporter for The Guardian US.
Pilkington describes the botched execution of Clayton Lockett of Oklahoma in April 2014, as related to him by a Guardian colleague who witnessed Lockett’s execution:
“He was groaning, he was shouting out. They were finding it impossible to get the vein, so blood was spurting over all the people in the death chamber, I mean it was the most horrendous situation. And right at that moment they decided to shut the curtain, which would prevent any witnesses, including reporters, from seeing what happened.”
Pilkington calls this the “most visceral form of censorship” and says “there should be maximum transparency.”
He claims the current system has complete secrecy surrounding every step of the execution process, from the sources of the drugs themselves to the grisly reality when those drugs fail to kill the condemned in a timely and painless fashion.
Missouri is one of 13 states to have expanded what are known as “black hood laws,” which are meant to protect the identities of executioners, to now also make confidential everyone involved in the production and delivery of lethal injection drugs. These laws even supersede the Freedom of Information Act.
In response, The Guardian, Associated Press, and several prominent Missouri newspapers have filed suit against the state, in what is believed to be the First Amendment challenge to the death penalty.
The lawsuit argues the public has a First Amendment right to access all information pertaining to government activities in capital cases, beginning in the courtroom, through the death chamber, and into the autopsy room. No court date has been set.