In the nineteenth century, the United States began quietly moving executions from the public square to the insulated walls of prisons.
The change was largely in response to a powerful movement in the 1830’s to abolish the death penalty, with proponents of capital punishment believing that the disgust produced by public executions would eventually lead to outright abolition. And thus began the modern day death penalty system, one that has largely been shrouded in secrecy since its inception.
Since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1977, 90 percent of executions have used lethal injection to carry out sentences, predominately to avoid legal challenges over prior methods such as electrocution and hanging and to foster the image of a humane process for the public. That image, however, is a farce, and state governments have gone to great lengths to conceal practically all facets of modern day executions.
“Behind the Curtain: Secrecy and the Death Penalty in the United States,” a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center, delves deeply into the problematic practices currently at play and showcases the unethical behavior being carried out by big government across 30 states and the federal and military death penalty systems.
Some tactics have been in place for decades, serving to block the government from transparency and accountability measures: Information about those who carry out the executions and their qualifications are withheld. Very few members of the public are able to witness executions. Those who do observe executions are seldom able to view the entire process.
In recent years, however, disturbing new layers of secrecy have been added.
States are now blocking information about the drugs they are using in lethal injections, and not just from the public, but frequently from the very manufacturers producing the drugs who do not want their product used in this manner.
Since 2011, thirteen state legislatures have passed new laws that have enacted secrecy statutes to prevent the public from obtaining important information about executions. Eight additional states have invoked existing laws or protocols to refuse disclosing this type of information. In four of these states, it is either a civil or criminal offense to disclose such information.
These laws are a mechanism for the government to thwart the constitutional rights of individuals, the ability of courts to ensure the protection of those rights, and the capability for the public to hold their government accountable. It seems in many, many areas of our system, elected officials have forgotten that they work for us — not the other way around.
We know beyond the shadow of a doubt that botched executions occur, whether due to error of the executioners or problems with execution drugs. Despite the use of a paralytic in most execution drug cocktails to mask any symptoms of pain, witnesses have still reported signs of severe distress in several executions, notably where the drug midazolam was used. By covering this information up, governments are preventing rigorous and robust discussion on the death penalty along with any public oversight that might come from that.
Another unethical practice these secrecy laws are veiling are the corrupt lengths to which state governments are going to obtain the needed drugs for executions. Pharmaceutical companies do not want their medicines used in executions. Period, end of story. When you consider the amount of money it takes to develop a medication and bring it to market, it is wholly understandable why a company that is producing a product meant to cure would object to it being used instead to kill — on both moral and financial grounds. Use of one’s medication in an execution is not exactly a great marketing strategy.
However, despite the explicit wishes of these companies, states have deliberately circumvented drug distribution contracts that prohibited the sale of medicines for use in executions using false pretense and trickery. Several drug companies have alleged as much in lawsuits and have also pointed out that use of these tactics will make it harder for people who actually need their medicines to obtain them.
States often claim these secrecy laws are to protect the pharmaceutical companies from harassment, but that’s an obvious lie considering that every FDA-approved supplier of the drugs has sought to block the use of their product in executions. This makes it vividly apparent that states are trying to conceal knowledge on the drugs being used from the manufacturers themselves.
It should surprise no conservative that the government is out of control.
It’s time those on the right realize that the death penalty is another failed big government program, filled with all the ineffectiveness and corruption as the others. Clearly, when this much secrecy is needed to carry out the death penalty, it’s not operating correctly.
Hannah Cox is the National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. Hannah was previously Director of Outreach for the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free-market think tank. Prior to that, she was Director of Development for the Tennessee Firearms Association and a policy advocate for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.