Attorney general proposes that Missouri make its own lethal injection chemicals

Missouri’s struggles to obtain drugs to carry out executions have been plagued by controversy and legal challenges.

On Thursday, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster proposed a solution: Missouri should make its own lethal injection chemicals.

“The legislature should appropriate funds to establish a state-operated, DEA-licensed laboratory to produce the execution chemicals in our state,” Koster said in a speech to a bar association group at the Lake of the Ozarks.

No state has such a laboratory, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C. And Dieter said he was unaware of anyone who has suggested such a facility.

In recent years, major drug manufacturers, spurred by public pressure or moral grounds, have refused to sell their products to states for executions.

In response, Missouri turned to a compounding pharmacy, the name of which has been kept secret. The pharmacy insisted on anonymity because it fears “litigation or reprisal,” Koster said.

Attorneys for condemned inmates and media outlets have challenged that secrecy. The prisoners have argued that they have a right to know the source and other details about the drugs used in their executions. And media outlets contend that the public has a First Amendment right to the information.

Courts thus far have sided with the state, Koster said.

But while legal, such “creeping secrecy” may not be prudent, Koster said.

“For Missouri to maintain lethal injection as its preferred method of execution, it is my belief the legislature should remove market-driven participants and pressures from the system at the earliest opportunity,” he said.

“Eliminating outside business interests from Missouri’s execution protocol would improve the high level of public transparency that is demanded in the exercise of this extraordinary state power.”

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.