Monday, January 7, 2008

Government Secrecy about Execution Protocol

The issue of the secrecy surrounding the execution protocol of several states is well documented in today's L.A. Times (and elsewhere). Should the process and its participants enjoy this privilege?

Read the story

Several states have protected their execution protocols from public scrutiny. One of the justifications for this secrecy is to protect the identity of the executioners. There is no doubt some validity to this rationale. On the other hand, citizens must be confident that government will not abuse this process when it grants the ability to withhold information. Several states have violated the trust by having shoddy procedures, little or no training, and in the case of Missouri, incompetent executioners.

The U.S. Supreme Court may address not only the chemicals used by the states and the federal government, but may also issue guidelines regarding execution protocols. 20 states and the Bush administration have decried this invitation to "micromanage" the states. But the failure to develop responsible policy and procedures calls for "micromanagement."

In essence, we have to have confidence that government is using our money and our authority to hire competent individuals. Government is asking us to trust that it is developing sound policy and carrying out procedures in a professional manner. The evidence of incompetence of the Missouri prison system and the procedures described in other states should cause reasonable people concern. Because of the abrogation of trust, execution protocols must be subjected to public scrutiny. Sun light is truly a good disinfectant!

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