Court Finds MODOC In Violation of Sunshine Law Twice, Orders Release of Public Documents
COLE COUNTY — Late yesterday afternoon, the Circuit Court of Cole County affirmed its rulings in two separate cases that the Missouri Department of Corrections (MODOC) knowingly violated the Sunshine Law by failing to release the name of the pharmacy that supplies its execution drugs (The Reporters Committee, et al v. Missouri Department of Corrections) and refusing to release uncensored documents regarding the state’s execution witness selection protocol (ACLU of Missouri, et al v. Missouri Department of Corrections). In both cases, the MODOC was ordered to release the previously requested documents and to pay applicable fees and penalties.
In ACLU of Missouri, et al v. Missouri Department of Corrections, the ACLU of Missouri sought the release of copies of requests by the public or the media to witness executions, the MODOC’s responses to those requests, and all records indicating the actual witnesses to executions over the past 12 months to determine if witnesses were being chosen in an impartial manner. In its earlier order issued on December 31, 2015, the Circuit Court of Cole County agreed that the Department violated the Sunshine Law.
On May 15, 2014, the ACLU of Missouri, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Chris McDaniel, a St. Louis Public Radio reporter, filed a lawsuit against the MODOC for withholding public documents which included the name of the pharmacy that supplies its execution drugs. On June 15, 2015, the Circuit Court of Cole County issued its earlier order that the MODOC did indeed violate the Sunshine Law.
The Reporters Committee ruling in effect reverses the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals’ March 11, 2016 decision in Balogh v. Lombardi. The Circuit Court of Cole County ruled that since the compounding pharmacy that supplies execution drugs to Missouri “does not provide direct support for the administration of lethal chemicals nor is present in the execution chamber” it cannot be considered a member of the execution team. Therefore records disclosing the pharmacy’s identity cannot be justifiably withheld.
Court documents can be found on our website at http://www.aclu-mo.org/legal-docket/aclu-v-modoc-re-execution-witnesses/ and http://www.aclu-mo.org/legal-docket/reporters-committee-v-missouri-department-of-corrections/.
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