Judge appropriately rules to release execution drug info

When it comes to the death penalty, we have opined before that all matters of execution deserve extra scrutiny.

Even when appeals are inconvenient to the survivors of victims of horrible crimes, our legal system has a constitutional obligation, and in our view a moral one, to examine every aspect to ensure that those we are executing have exhausted their legal protections and their rights under the constitution.

The death penalty is the most severe punishment we have to offer; it is uncorrectable, and we must treat it seriously. It is not an act of revenge, but an act of justice. It requires level heads and close examination.

That, along with our position to encourage transparency in government, is why we were pleased to see that a Missouri judge ruled on March 22 that the state must reveal the source of the drug it uses to execute prisoners, finding that the state's Department of Corrections "knowingly violated" Missouri's open-records law.

We understand there are reasons why the government might want to keep the drug secret. The makers of the drug might find themselves in the political spotlight, finding themselves the targets of boycotts and backlash. They may decide to decease making the drug, which creates problems for the state of Missouri. It's possible. But it's not a good enough reason for our government to keep its execution methods hidden from public view.

Since 2013, according to the Associated Press, Missouri has executed 18 men using the drug pentobarbital. Where the state gets the drug is unknown, according to the Associated Press. Major drug companies have refused to allow their drugs to be used in executions.

Missouri has refused to disclose the source of their drugs, though the sources are widely believed to be compounding pharmacies that make drugs tailored to the needs of a specific client. Those pharmacies, according to AP, do not face the same approval process or testing standards of larger pharmaceutical companies.

Several news organizations, including The Associated Press, Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch filed a lawsuit in 2014, arguing that disclosure reduces risk that "improper, ineffective or defectively prepared drugs are used."

The state attempted to argue that a Sunshine Law exemption that protected the identification of members of the execution team also protected the drug maker. This is yet another glaring example of how government officials try to pervert the law to keep data and information hidden from the public. In this case, the public's right to know outweighs a contractor's preference for privacy and certainly the government's desire for convenience.

The information will not be released until the appeals process plays out, but already the state has been ordered to pay $73,000 in legal fees to the media organizations.

The death penalty is a very controversial topic in our nation. Those who favor and oppose can be found from all political affiliations and personal backgrounds. It is essential that the public is allowed to examine how the government stands up to the Constitution and how it puts people to death. If we are to kill people legally, then all facts and methods should be exposed. Missouri's expensive attempts to shroud the facts says a lot about its priority for transparency.