Lawmakers Look To Keep Source Of Louisiana's Lethal Injection Drugs Secret

May 8, 2019

A bill to hide the identity of people or businesses who produce drugs used to carry out the death penalty is making its way through the Louisiana House. The move is an effort to get executions running again in the state. 

Representative Nicholas Muscarello (R-Hammond) says he wants to bring closure to victims’ families.

“We told them this person is going to die," Muscarello told members of the House and Governmental Affairs committee Tuesday, "so for that reason I feel like this is a good measure.”

It’s been nearly a decade since anyone has been executed in the state. Partly because, according to the Department of Corrections, Louisiana doesn’t have the drugs needed for lethal injection. Many pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell the drugs over objections to the death penalty.

“They feel like it’s not worth it to them for goodwill measures as far as people—social media concerns, picketing their companies, threatening employees.  Because of the fact that they could be exposed, they didn’t want to be a part of the process," said Muscarello.  

Supporters see this legislation as a way to ease those concerns—if the company’s identity is confidential, they may be more willing to provide the drugs. 17 other states have passed similar laws.

But opponents say even with this law in place, that doesn’t ensure Louisiana will get the drugs needed for lethal injection, and even if they do, Representative Sam Jenkins (D-Shreveport) says the problem becomes a lack of transparency, especially in the event of a botched execution.

“Protecting the people who furnish it is one thing," said Jenkins, "but I’m wondering about the trade-off, which is, you know, how do we come back and deal with something that was done wrong?”

Rob Tasman, who represents the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, opposed the measure as well.

“It would seem to us that there is nothing more important than to be transparent and have all the information possible when you are taking another human life," he said.

Governor John Bel Edwards has said he’s inclined to sign the bill if it reaches his desk, but notes he reserves the right to review the language.