America’s most famous publisher of porn is fighting for a basic right of all Missourians: the right to know what the government is doing on your behalf with your tax dollars.
On Tuesday, a federal appeals court sided with Hustler founder Larry Flynt.
The issue is Missouri’s hidden protocols of compounded drugs used for executions. Flynt sued the state to unseal judicial records when the man who confessed to shooting and paralyzing him was up for execution. Flynt wanted Joseph Paul Franklin to serve life in prison, but Missouri put him to death in November 2013.
A lower court had ruled that Flynt didn’t have standing in the case. The appeals court on Tuesday signed off on allowing Flynt to join a lawsuit against the state. McClatchy, The Kansas City Star’s parent organization, was among many media companies that filed briefs in support of Flynt’s efforts to unseal the records.
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Missouri has become quite the player in this game of cat and mouse. State officials have managed to keep one step ahead of efforts to force open details about where they are getting the drug, among other specifics.
The secrecy makes it difficult, if not impossible, for attorneys to argue on behalf of their death row clients.
There is also the question of ethics. As fewer pharmacies and drug companies will trade in the business of executions, it’s getting more difficult for states to find the drugs. At one point, the insistence of states like Missouri to continue using propofol risked doctors losing access to it for lifesaving medical purposes.
Last month, a leading U.S. pharmacists association approved a policy discouraging its members from helping with executions. The reason is simple: Pharmacists are supposed to be about caring for people, not ending their lives.
The shroud that Missouri is operating under comes with another price. It allows people to distance themselves from considering the death penalty — its higher financial costs compared with life imprisonment, let alone the morality of the practice.
People like that. It’s easier. That’s how the nation moved to lethal injection. The public got squeamish about electrocutions or the firing squad.
It’s all murder, as much as the heinous serial murders in multiple states that Franklin committed. And he was pure evil: anti-Semitic, racist and twisted.
We shouldn’t be so comfortable with being uninformed about something as serious as the death penalty.
Eventually the courts may rule that we have the right to know, making it a little less convenient to stay in the dark.