Jindal administration pushing to hide information about execution drugs

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 13, 2014 at 4:16 PM

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration is pushing ahead with a bill that seeks to hide all information about how Louisiana gets its execution drugs, despite concerns it could make it difficult to investigate a botched execution like in Oklahoma.
 
   The proposal by Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie, would shield all identifying information about the company that manufactures, compounds or supplies the drugs used in Louisiana's lethal injection process.
 
   The information wouldn't just be kept from the general public. It also would be considered inadmissible as evidence and couldn't be information obtained by attorneys in the discovery process for a lawsuit.
 
   The House and Governmental Affairs Committee agreed to the measure without objection Tuesday.
 
   Lopinto's bill, which moves next to the full House for debate, also would make secret the name of anyone who helps carry out an execution.
 
   Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc, accompanied by state prison Warden Burl Cain, told lawmakers if the state identifies how it's getting the drugs, the corrections department could have trouble buying more because companies don't want to be known as helping facilitate an execution.
 
   "This is not about being secret. This is about protecting the suppliers," LeBlanc said.
 
   The Louisiana Press Association opposed the measure, along with representatives of the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
 
   Walter Sanchez, a Lake Charles attorney who is past president of the criminal defense lawyers group, said the bill goes beyond a public records exemption.
 
   "It's an evidentiary issue and it's an immunity," he said.
 
   He said the proposal would keep legislative committees, grand juries and other state investigatory panels from being able to access information about how the state bought its lethal injection drugs even in cases where an execution goes wrong. He said it would hinder the type of investigation going on in Oklahoma, looking at a recently bungled execution.
 
   Sanchez said he understands the difficulties Louisiana corrections officials are having obtaining lethal injection drugs. But he added, "The solution to the problem is not let's hide the information about the drugs."
 
   Lopinto said Louisiana has the death penalty, and he said the corrections department has to have ways to carry it out.
 
   "They have to have the tools," he said.
 
   Louisiana's secrecy over its execution protocol is the subject of an ongoing federal lawsuit.
 
   A federal appeals court has refused to block a judge's order requiring the state to provide a condemned killer with information about the seller and maker of drugs the state uses in executions, as part of a lawsuit seeking to determine whether the execution method violates an inmate's constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.
 
   Louisiana's last execution was in 2010.
 

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