GA Supreme Court Upholds Anonymity Law for Execution Drug Makers

The Georgia Supreme Court yesterday ruled its state law allowing anonymity for the makers of execution drugs, pharmacists and other personnel involved in executions is constitutional. A lower court had previously declared the law. unconstitutional.

From the opinion:

This case presents the question of whether it is unconstitutional for the State of Georgia to maintain the confidentiality of the names and other identifying information of the persons and entities involved in executions, including those who manufacture the drug or drugs to be used.

We hold that it is not, and we reverse the ruling of the Superior Court of Fulton County in which it granted an interlocutory injunction prohibiting the execution of Warren Lee Hill with a drug from a confidential source in order to consider that question.

As to why it's okay, check out this flippant statement:

“Particularly unpersuasive is Hill’s expert’s testimony that certain contaminants also could have the following effect: ‘Their blood pressure would drop precipitously, and ultimately it’s possible that they could die.'

“Such a side effect obviously would be shockingly undesirable in the practice of medicine, but it is certainly not a worry in an execution.”

Who is Warren Lee Hill? A mentally deficient death row inmate who challenged the law. [More...]

From the Guardian article (first link above):

The state argues that Hill has not been proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” to be mentally disabled, notwithstanding the fact that all nine medical experts who have examined Hill are in agreement that he is intellectually disabled.

Georgia's law, OCGA § 42-5-36 (d) (as amended effective July 1, 2013), states:

(2) The identifying information of any person or entity who participates in or administers the execution of a death sentence and the identifying information of any person or entity that manufactures, supplies, compounds, or prescribes the drugs, medical supplies, or medical equipment utilized in the execution of a death sentence shall be confidential and shall not be subject to disclosure under Article 4 of Chapter 18 of Title 50 or under judicial process. Such information shall be classified as a confidential state secret.

The Guardian, along with the AP and three newspapers, are challenging Missouri's secrecy law. Hopefully, they will fare better.

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    As an opponent (none / 0) (#1)
    by KeysDan on Wed May 21, 2014 at 06:25:29 PM EST
    of capital punishment it is difficult for me to focus on any processes or procedures in its implementation by the state.  However, given the reality of the death penalty in several states, calls  to completely eliminate the "black hood" so as to identify individuals, specific pharmacies and suppliers involved in the execution are sensed as  being misguided and misdirected.

    The argument that the secrecy is a veil to hide incompetence does not seem strong--the clearly cruel and unusual punishment of the botched Oklahoma execution, for example, was there to see in all its horror.  The protocols and the drugs to be used should be public along with the qualifications of those administering the lethal injections.

    Therefore, it is with immense discomfort that I find myself more in agreement with the Georgia Supreme Court than not, despite my being embarrassed for them for the flippant and disgraceful statement cited.  It appears that the joke heard at the Atlanta Country Club must have just been too good for them not to include it in their opinion.  

    My thinking however, is that it is not the vendor "execution team" that has the major responsibility to avoid cruel and unusual punishment (as, at least, opined by the US Supreme Court), but the top officials of the Department of Corrections and the governor.

     In a way, it seems like the flip side for those opposed to abortions demanding the names of doctors, nurses suppliers and others involved a procedure that they do not approve.