- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri circuit county judge ruled that the Department of Corrections violated the law by refusing to disclose records about pharmacies that compound the state’s execution drug.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, which sued the state, said the state should now disclose the name of the pharmacy.

“After today’s decision, the Missouri Department of Corrections can no longer hide behind Missouri statutes and refuse the public’s right to know where it obtains execution drugs,” ACLU of Missouri legal director Tony Rothert said in a statement. “The public has a right to know the source of the illegal drugs the State uses to kill people in the public’s name.”

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, which is representing the Department of Corrections, said the agency is reviewing the ruling, which was handed down on Wednesday.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and reporter Chris McDaniel, formerly of St. Louis Public Radio, joined the ACLU in suing the state in May 2014 after they were denied requests for records about the laboratories and pharmacies that compound, test and supply the lethal injection drug used to put inmates to death.

Attorneys for the state argued that those pharmacies and laboratories were a part of the execution team. Members of that team are confidential under Missouri law.

But Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem said the corrections department did not have the legal authority to add those entities to the execution team, which by law is generally defined to include medical personnel and others directly involved in administering lethal injections.

Missouri’s secretive execution procedures have been under legal scrutiny for years.

The Associated Press and other news organizations filed a similar lawsuit the same day as the ACLU, saying the process prohibits public oversight of executions.

The lawsuit asked a judge to order the Department of Corrections to make public where it purchases drugs for executions and disclose details about the composition and quality of the drugs. The lawsuit is still pending.

Another proceeding in the ACLU case is scheduled for Aug. 28. Rothert said he expects the judge to review the records in question to determine if certain parts might not be public and must be redacted.

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Follow Summer Ballentine at https://twitter.com/esballentine

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