…Just prior to [Ohio Gov. John Kasich] announcing [a] temporary moratorium [on executions in 2015], Ohio lawmakers attempted to improve the reputation of its capital punishment system with bizarre new laws passed in a lame-duck session. The controversial rules increased secrecy by shielding the identities of drugmakers and suppliers for lethal injections, and they immunized error by providing anonymity for anyone who participates in the process as well as the state execution team. The effect, as the Washington Post editorialized, was “to impose a gag order on potentially adverse reports that could inform the public debate over capital punishment.”
But while Ohio officials eventually came to realize that the problems with their lethal injection protocol couldn’t be wholly fixed by shrouding executions in ever more secrecy, Virginia lawmakers have arrived at the opposite conclusion. Last week they proposed legislation that would make it easier to obtain lethal injection drugs and that would also create an almost impermeable layer of secrecy around the execution process. The new law would make it significantly harder for the press and the public to know what was happening in the execution chamber. This is, of course, the same Virginia Legislature that flirted last year with reinstating the electric chair if lethal injection drug supplies dried up. (That effort failed.) The effect of this new proposed legislation would be less scrutiny of a process that the rest of the nation, including the highest court in the land, views with ever more skepticism.
Reassuring to see that public discourse over botched executions and the reliability of drugs has encouraged states to disclose their drug cocktails.