ACLU sues Missouri over selection of execution witnesses

The ACLU of Missouri has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state of Missouri’s process for selecting witnesses for executions.

Chris McDaniel, a reporter who covers the death penalty for BuzzFeed News, applied to witness a Missouri execution in early 2014. He has yet to receive a response from the Missouri Department of Corrections, even though the state has executed 17 people since he submitted his application, according to the ACLU.

“Execution witnesses are an important check to ensure the department does not abuse its power,” said Tony Rothert, legal director for ACLU of Missouri, said in a statement. “That check does not work when the Department can choose to exclude anyone critical of its behavior.”

McDaniel has written about the secrecy with which the state carries out executions. Missouri, McDaniel has found, paid executioners in cash in order to hide their identities. In 2013, he and Véronique LaCapra reported that Missouri purchased an execution drug from a pharmacy in Oklahoma not licensed to do business in the state.

The lawsuit challenging the process for selecting witnesses was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Categories: News