ACLU of Eastern Missouri Asks Court to Make Public State's Death Penalty Protocol

Affiliate: ACLU of Missouri
November 22, 2002 12:00 am

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ST. LOUIS — The American Civil Liberties of Eastern Missouri today asked a district court judge to order the state’s Department of Corrections to make public the procedures used for executing individuals sentenced to the death penalty.

“Our government derives its legitimacy from the fact that its processes are open to the public,” said Burton Newman, an ACLU of Eastern Missouri cooperating attorney who submitted today’s brief. “The true sign of a free society is the extent to which it allows for openness of government.”

The case, Rafert v. Missouri, was filed on behalf of St. Louis attorney Cheryl Rafert, who has been working since August 2000 to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding Missouri’s capital punishment procedures.

Two years ago, Rafert submitted an open records request under Missouri’s Sunshine Law for a copy of the state’s Execution Protocol. The state initially denied Rafert’s request, citing “safety and security” reasons. After haggling with Department of Corrections officials for over a year, Rafert was finally given an abridged draft consisting of 13 pages of the approximately 76-page protocol. In frustration, Rafert turned to the ACLU of Eastern Missouri for help.

“The state never told Ms. Rafert how the release of these records would jeopardize safety and security,” said Matt LeMieux, Executive Director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. “They took ‘it’s a safety and security matter because we said so’ attitude. The state has to show much more than that to claim that these records fall under an exception to the law.”

The ACLU’s brief stresses that under Missouri law government records are presumed open unless they fall explicitly into a particular exception.

The case is Rafert v. Missouri, No. 01CV 325895.

The brief is online at /node/34899

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