EDITORIAL: Execution Drug Sources Can't Be Kept Secret

Article excerpt

Alabama's death penalty faces an unexpected obstacle. After decades of lawsuits and legal challenges couldn't halt the most severe penalty Alabama courts can impose, drug companies did.

The state has used lethal injection as its method of execution since 2002, but drug manufacturers have either quit making the required drugs or now refuse to sell them to states for executions. The shelf life of stockpiles in states using lethal injection has expired or will soon.

Methods of execution must not be "cruel and unusual punishment." Lethal injection has been used because it is the most painless method that could be used. Regardless of individual feelings, it is the legal standard and cannot be ignored.

Companies have quit selling drugs for executions for a variety of reasons but, for the most part, it has to do with outside pressure from anti-death penalty advocates. That has led some Alabama legislators to propose that the state pass a law that keeps secret its source for the necessary drugs. That, supposedly, would relieve companies of the concerns they have about selling their drugs to the state.

Even if that were the case, we could not support a law that allows the state to conduct business in secrecy. Outside of matters of national security, no matter how limited the circumstances, secrecy isn't acceptable in government. Even establishing it for limited purposes leads to bad habits, as the erosion of Alabama's open meetings law clearly demonstrates. …