JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – A Missouri judge ruled the state Corrections Department intentionally delayed fulfilling a Sunshine request over the source of execution drugs to avoid returning them and facing negative publicity.
“The Missouri Department of Corrections violated the public’s trust, in both its plan to use questionably obtained drugs and by purposefully violating the Sunshine Law to cover up its scheme,” American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman said in a Monday statement touting the ruling.
The attorney general’s office did not immediately comment Monday.
At issue is a 2013 open records request from the ACLU over where the state got the anesthetic drug propofol to use in executions. Most of the propofol used in the U.S. had been made in Europe, where the anti-death penalty European Union was considering export limits over its use in lethal injections.
The ACLU request sought to determine how the state was able to obtain the drug when all the leading makers, who had opposed its use in executions, were refusing to sell it to prisons or corrections departments, according to the lawsuit.
The Missouri Corrections Department told the ACLU it would take about three weeks to provide the information but didn’t respond by then. The state fulfilled the request after the ACLU sued.
Later in 2013, Missouri switched to using the drug pentobarbital for lethal injections following doctor protests and an intervention by then-Gov. Jay Nixon to halt executions using propofol.
Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce in her Friday ruling said the state delayed giving the information to avoid “having to return the drugs, rewrite its execution protocol, and cancel an execution, as well as receive negative publicity.”
She ordered the state to pay a $2,500 penalty and the ACLU’s attorney fees.
The lawsuit is one of several filed by the ACLU and others in an attempt to get more information on Missouri executions.
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