Justices’ Questions Could Shine Light on Lethal Injection Secrecy
Lawyers challenging lethal injection procedures have been hampered by states’ refusal to disclose details about the three-drug cocktail and the identity of executioners.
But justices’ questions in oral arguments today before the U.S. Supreme Court could help bring to light the controversy over access to information, the Los Angeles Times reports. Two Kentucky death row inmates, Ralph Baze and Thomas Clyde Bowling Jr., have asked the court to determine the standard courts should use when assessing whether the state’s three-drug cocktail amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
State officials have fought release of information to protect executioners who could be targeted by groups opposing the death penalty. Clay Crenshaw, the assistant attorney general in charge of capital litigation in Alabama, explained the problem. “You have a lot of nuts on the other side who, if they found out the names, would post them on anti-death penalty websites,” he said.
But lethal injection opponents point to troubling details revealed in hearings on lethal injections in California, Missouri and Tennessee.
In California, for example, a federal judge found that the injections were performed by executioners who knew little about the drugs they were administering. U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose said the inmates may have felt a sensation of drowning or strangulation before their death because they may have been conscious during the procedure.