Organizations ask Idaho high court to open execution records

March 2, 2020 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Several news and legal organizations have told the Idaho Supreme Court that they believe state prison officials are required to reveal the source of drugs used in executions under public records law.

The American Bar Association, the Idaho Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Idaho Press Club and others filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of a lawsuit that University of Idaho professor Aliza Cover brought against the Idaho Department of Correction. Several news organizations, including The Associated Press, the Idaho Statesman, Boise television station KTVB and others joined with the Idaho Press Club in its brief.

Department of Correction didn’t have any comment on the filings, spokesman Jeff Ray said.

Cover, who is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, sued after prison officials largely denied her request for execution-related records in 2017. A state judge said last year that prison officials had to turn over much of the information she sought, including documents that would show the supplier of the lethal injection drugs used in the state’s most recent execution.

The Department of Correction appealed, and the state Supreme Court is expected to hear the case this year.

Many states are finding it more difficult to carry out executions because many drug companies don’t want their products used to kill inmates and are refusing to sell them to correctional departments.

The groups that filed friend-of-the-court briefs in Idaho said information about the source of lethal injection drugs should be available to the public to ensure that the state isn’t violating the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

The Idaho Press Club said in its filing Friday that reliable information is needed so the public can determine whether executions are fair and humane.

“Not only does allowing the press to report on executions promote a more informed discussion of the death penalty, it promotes the public perception of fairness and transparency concerning the death penalty,” the news organizations wrote.

The American Bar Association made a similar argument, contending that secrecy undermines public confidence in the justice system.