Last week the State of Arkansas announced that it was calling off its search for a new supply of lethal injection drugs after the state Supreme Court ruled that documents identifying the makers of those drugs could no longer be kept secret.
This in itself shows how fundamentally broken and unjust the death penalty in America has become. The only way for the state to obtain the drugs it needs to put human beings to death is by purposefully concealing their source and hiding essential information from the public.
What’s worse, Governor Asa Hutchinson has a plan to restart this gruesome assembly line of death when the Legislature returns in January by passing a law that would once again allow the identities of these drug manufacturers to be kept hidden.
Arguing drug makers shouldn’t have to “jeopardize their business because of protests,” Governor Hutchinson is putting the reputations of drug companies ahead of Arkansans’ right to know how their tax dollars are being spent.
This is unacceptable, and legislators should waste no time in rejecting this misguided proposal.
Just last year, Arkansas rushed to execute eight men in 10 days, all to beat the expiration date on its supply of Midazolam, a risky drug that has played a role in numerous botched executions. At least one innocent man may have been put to death, while another showed signs of being tortured.
But instead of learning from this shameful episode, Arkansas officials are barrelling ahead with an attempt to make the execution process even less transparent and more prone to abuse.
Hiding the source of execution drugs is not only an affront to openness and accountability, it also increases the likelihood of a botched execution because the safety of the drugs can’t be independently verified.
Time and time again, we have proven that the criminal justice system fails to protect the innocent and persons with serious mental disabilities and illnesses from execution. And every method of execution comes with an intolerably high risk of extreme pain and torture.
Now, instead of confronting this fundamental injustice, Arkansas officials are going to extraordinary lengths to perpetuate it with a sinister cloak-and-dagger routine.
A process that requires this level of secrecy and does this much harm has no place in a democracy that values human dignity and the rule of law.
Arkansas officials should call off their rush to kill and abolish the death penalty once and for all.