States Pass Laws Keeping Execution Drug Information Secret


The state of Tennessee doesn’t want you to know how it will kill the condemned, The Tennessean reports. It doesn’t want you to know who will flip the switch, sending a lethal dose of pentobarbital through the veins of death row inmates. It doesn’t want you to know how it obtained that pentobarbital — which isn’t available from any legal drug manufacturer — as well. State correction officials have banned the media from visiting inmates on death row.

As Tennessee makes an unprecedented push to set execution dates, it is cloaking its plans in secrecy. Legislators have allowed the state to withhold all information about the drugs it plans to use in executions. Georgia, Oklahoma and Missouri have enacted similar laws shrouding information about their lethal injection drugs. Death row inmates have sued Tennessee to pull back that shroud. The argument is being aired in other states, too: Without knowing exactly who is making the drugs, there’s no way to ensure they’ll work as intended. If the drugs don’t work as intended, it could amount to cruel and unusual punishment, which is barred by the U.S. Constitution.

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