Public Records Lawsuit Seeks Disclosure of Records Needed to Determine Whether Idaho Executions Are Safe and Legal
BOISE – Idaho law professor Aliza Cover filed a lawsuit yesterday against the Idaho Board of Correction over its refusal to disclose public records about the source and safety of drugs used in state executions. The state of Idaho has carried out two executions in the past decade, both by lethal injection, and the public still does not know where the drugs used in these executions came from, or anything about the reputability or safety record of the drug’s suppliers.
“Lethal injection secrecy prevents a meaningful and open public debate about the death penalty,” Cover said. “Capital punishment is carried out in the name of the people, but the people can’t access basic information about Idaho’s execution drugs. And without this information, we can’t know whether the next execution will amount to cruel and unusual punishment.”
The ACLU of Idaho represents Cover in the lawsuit. Cover sent a request to the Idaho Department of Correction in September 2017 to obtain information about the drugs used in Idaho’s two most recent executions, in addition to any records about efforts to obtain execution drugs for future executions. The Idaho Department of Correction partially denied that request, refusing to provide any information about the source or safety of the drugs.
“There is a serious issue of public concern to ensure that if the state of Idaho is going to execute people, it should do so in a lawful manner. This is of particular concern in light of several botched executions around the country as a result of faulty or untested drugs,” said Leo Morales, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho. “Considering the extremely high cost of the death penalty, the public has a right to know whether the state of Idaho is paying for, or has paid for, dangerous or illegal execution drugs.”
Lethal injection is the only execution method allowed under Idaho law. Records uncovered in prior litigation revealed that Idaho prison officials had sought lethal injection drugs from a supplier in India, months before the execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades in November 2011. Federal authorities later blocked lethal injection drug shipments from the same supplier to several other states.
In 2016 the last remaining open-market supplier of lethal injection drugs, Pfizer, blocked their usage for lethal injection and specifically asked the Idaho Department of Correction to return all lethal injection drugs the department had obtained from them.
“Given the circumstances, Aliza Cover and the public’s interest in the disclosure of the source of Idaho’s lethal injection drugs could hardly be more pertinent,” said Leo Morales.