Backlash Spreading Against Ohio's Proposed 'Secret Execution' Policy


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State executions have been a big story in Ohio and across the country this year, with the unusual death of Dennis McGuire leading the headlines. Currently, the Statehouse is debating legislation that would shield details of Ohio's tax-funded death penalty process from the public — namely the specific pharmacies involved in supplying the execution drugs and the physicians participating in the process itself (this is HB 663 in the General Assembly).

Backlash is growing against this measure, but the Ohio House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee hasn't approved any proposed amendments that would scale back the opaque policy. The bill is on a fast-track through the committee process right now.

Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association, testified in Columbus yesterday: "This bill places sweeping and open-ended restrictions on access to information about what happens when the government ends the most fundamental human right of all — the right to life. This bill likely will prompt endless litigation — a precise situation you are trying to avoid."

At issue is the simple fact that Ohio's track record with capital punishment isn't great and that the public has a right to know who and what is involved in the decision-making process and execution (pun not intended, actually). 

"Secrecy will only increase the public's distrust of lethal injections, as it will inevitably lead to new troubles. Whenever the government operates in the shadows, problems follow," Mike Brickner, senior policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said.

A committee vote could come as soon as today.

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