Pharmacy Compounding Missouri Lethal Injections Must Be Publicized

The Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) has violated the state's Sunshine Law by refusing to reveal the name of a pharmacy that compounds lethal injections, a Missouri judge ruled.

The Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) has violated the state’s Sunshine Law by refusing to reveal the name of a pharmacy that compounds lethal injections, a Missouri judge ruled.

The purpose of the Sunshine Law is to allow for transparency in government, meaning that meetings, records, votes, and official actions must be made public.

Three separate groups have sued the Missouri DOC for refusing to disclose the name of the pharmacy for multiple open records requests.

The DOC argued that the compounding pharmacy is part of the execution team, whose members may remain secret.

The language of Missouri’s law states “The director of the DOC shall select an execution team which shall consist of those persons who administer lethal gas or lethal chemicals and those persons, such as medical personnel, who provide direct support for the administration of lethal gas or lethal chemicals. The identities of members of the execution team, as defined in the execution protocol of the department of corrections, shall be kept confidential.”

However, Missouri judge Jon Beetum ruled on July 15, 2015, that the pharmacy did not provide “direct support” to the administration of lethal injections.

“Section 546.720.2 states that the ‘identities of members of the execution team, as defined in the execution protocol of the DOC, shall be kept confidential.’ This provision does not, however, empower the DOC to define the execution team as it wishes, without limitation,” Beetum’s opinion read.

The opinion maintained that the execution team is comprised of those who administer the lethal chemicals or gas, as well as the medical personnel who provide direct support for the administration.

Pharmacies, Beetum argued, are neither involved in the administration, nor provide direct support for the administration of lethal injections. In addition, laboratories and pharmacies are not considered “persons” within the meaning of the law.

The opinion also stated that the DOC’s logic could potentially lead to the state adding suppliers of syringes and gurneys to the execution team.

The Missouri Attorney General’s Office is reviewing the rulings and may appeal.

Meanwhile, Beetum did not request that the names of compounding pharmacy and labs be released immediately, in order to ensure that the records did not identify any individuals, according to St. Louis Public Radio.

A Missouri DOC press release from 2013 said the state was adding a compounding pharmacy to its execution team to provide pentobarbital for executions.