Information about the execution of death row inmates in Mississippi could be kept secret.
Senate Bill 2237 entitled "Execution Secrecy Bill" passed the Senate Tuesday.
Attorney Gen. Jim Hood approached Senator Joey Fillingane to write the bill in hopes to protect those involved in the execution process from the harassment of protesters and death penalty opponents.
“This Bill attempts to prevent harassing and intimidating innocent people who are merely carrying out their duties as part of their employment in the state of Mississippi,” Fillingane said.
The bill states:
“The identities of all members of the execution team, the supplier or suppliers of lethal injection drugs, and the identities of those witnesses as provided for in Section 99-19-55 (2) shall at all times remain confidential, and the information is exempt from disclosure under the provisions of the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983.”
Fillingane said the bill is more about protecting the suppliers than the inmates.
“These are not nice people, these are people that have been convicted by a jury of their peers and sentenced to the death penalty and we are executing that judgment,” Fillingane said. “It will be affected in a way that is efficient, and obviously there are no qualms as to the efficacy of the drugs that are being used.”
Opponents of the bill say there are qualms, and that information about the drugs and the training of the staff should be available to the public.
“I think it’s a red herring just to be frank,” said Charles Irvin, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi. “Let’s put safety and security to the forefront because people will focus on that instead of focus on the fact that really the bill is designed to take away transparency from the drug companies who are supplying the drugs.”
Irvin said inmates also have a right to protection.
“Public records should not be removed from this process because how else can we find out how the execution takes place and what steps are being taken to carry out a successful execution and ensure that its important with the 8th amendment,” Irvin said.
Similar legislation has been passed in Oklahoma, Georgia and Arkansas.