People of good will can differ about whether capital punishment is the best way to impose justice on those who commit the most heinous crimes.
But compromising that debate by shrouding it in secrecy isn’t how free people are supposed to chart their destiny. That’s why we oppose legislation now before Louisiana state lawmakers to hide the names of pharmaceutical companies that provide drugs for lethal injections.
Many drug manufacturers don’t want the negative attention that comes from being associated with the death penalty. For years now, they’ve opted not to supply Louisiana officials with the drugs needed to put prisoners to death. Louisiana hasn’t executed an inmate since 2010.
All of this is an issue because capital punishment has become controversial. Polls show that most Louisiana voters still support it, although significant players, such as Catholic church leaders in Louisiana, have come out against it.
Republican state Sen. Dan Claitor, of Baton Rouge, a former prosecutor who opposes the death penalty, pushed a bill this session to let Louisiana voters decide whether to end capital punishment. Its sound defeat wasn’t surprising. But the fact that a conservative, law and order politician questioned the efficacy of the death penalty perhaps suggests that consensus on the issue isn’t as monolithic as it used to be.
The best way to address any division regarding such an important public policy — a decision that is, quite literally, a matter of life and death — is through honest and open debate. Cloaking aspects of the practice in secrecy is a dodge a democracy shouldn’t embrace.
One reason that lethal injection is hotly contested is because some executions using such drugs have been botched, including one in Arizona that drew the ire of the late Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain. How are we to hold drug companies responsible for such mishaps if their names are kept from public scrutiny?
Those who have lost loved ones through horrific crimes deserve the best measure of closure that society can offer. A justice system doing a deadly deed in the dark isn’t the way to advance that ideal.
Louisiana’s checkered political past offers many cautionary tales about the consequences of conducting public business in secret. That path never ends well, which is why we urge lawmakers and the governor to reject efforts to shield suppliers of lethal injection drugs from the public.