Ohio House Will Shield Death Penalty Drugmakers

By Paul Gaita 12/01/14

Instead of trying to solve an obvious problem, Ohio Republicans are trying to cover up an inhumane practice.

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The Ohio House of Representatives has approved a bill that will provide anonymity to the company that provides the state with the drugs used for lethal injections in death penalty sentences.

The Republican-led House voted 61-25 in support of the bill, which will exempt the names of pharmacies and drugmakers from public record requests, subpoenas, and discovery in court proceedings. An early version of the bill would have maintained that exemption in perpetuity, but an amendment requires the companies to request the anonymity, and makes the information public 20 years after it stops doing business with the state.

The bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Jim Buchy, says that the bill gives “the necessary guide rails to ensure that lethal injections in the state of Ohio are done safely, responsibly and humanely.” Mike Brickner, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio responded by saying, “This is the most extreme secrecy bill in the nation, and we think parts of it are flatly unconstitutional. It completely shuts out the public and the process from knowing what’s happening with lethal injunctions.”

The passage of the bill, which mirrors similar legislation in states like Missouri and Texas, is seen as a response to the shortage of lethal injection drugs like thiopental and pentobarbital, due in part to European manufacturers’ refusal to supply the drugs for executions.

States have been forced to rely on compounding pharmacies for the drugs or a sedative called Midazolam, which has so far resulted in the botched executions of Ohio death row inmate Dennis McGuire in January of 2014 and Oklahoma’s Clayton Lockett in May. The bill is now headed for vote in the Ohio Senate.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.