Florida prison officials are asking legislators to enact more layers of secrecy around the state’s method of executing death row inmates, writing a bill that would make confidential any records that “could reasonably lead to the identification of any person or entity participating in an execution.” The measure would allow the Florida Department of Corrections to obscure the supply chain behind the unique cocktail of drugs used in its lethal injections, McClatchy Newspapers reports. The state says doing so would prevent social activists from pressuring drug manufacturers into blacklisting the state from purchasing their products. Death penalty opponents say that it’s the manufacturers themselves that have sought to prevent their drugs from being used to kill people. Florida switched from the sedative midazolam to etomidate in 2017 without explaining why. The proposed bill is part of a regular ritual in the Florida legislature: carving out new exemptions to the state’s tradition of open records.
It’s unclear where the state is getting its execution drugs. The Department of Corrections is defending itself in federal court against five death row inmates who claim the state’s methods violate their Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. The prisoners have attempted to force the state to disclose how it obtains its lethal injection drugs. If prison officials get legislators to approve the measure, it would give them more ways to hide information about the drugs it uses and could ultimately enable them to cover up botched executions, said Virginia Hamrick of an open government group opposing the bill, the Florida First Amendment Foundation. The drugs were designed to be used as medicine, not poison, said Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center, and pharmaceutical companies are acting out of their own corporate interests, not intimidation from activists. “The state is not seeking to protect the privacy of the drug manufacturers,” Dunham said. “The state is seeking to prevent the drug manufacturers from learning that it intends to misuse their medicines.”