Otter: ‘We don’t want people to know’ the source of Idaho’s execution drugs


BOISE — A botched execution in Oklahoma Tuesday made lethal injections and the death penalty the subject of intense debate across the country. After the process began, condemned murderer and rapist Clayton Lockett convulsed on the table and tried to speak, according to execution witnesses who say officials then blocked their view.

It is unknown exactly what went wrong, but it took Lockett 43 minutes to die, when executions reportedly generally take around five minutes or less. He apparently suffered a massive heart attack.

This execution was the first time the state was going to use the sedative midazolam as the first drug in a three-drug cocktail. As the second and third drugs were administered, a doctor was concerned they weren’t having an effect and found Lockett’s vein had exploded.

Idaho’s procedures: What’s known publicly, what’s exempt from disclosure

Idaho currently has 12 people on death row. No death warrants are currently issued, but the state’s standard operation procedure for executions is in place, and was recently reviewed as part of a regular process by the Idaho Department of Correction.

In the state’s publicly available 50-page procedure, many logistics are outlined, including the types of drugs the state may use to carry out an execution. Other matters are kept secret by the state government, including where drugs come from.

After another botched execution in Ohio earlier this year, word that traditionally-used drugs were getting harder for states to buy, and concerns about where drugs may be ordered from, KTVB wanted details on which drugs Idaho has in stock, when they might expire, and where they came from.

A CNN investigation revealed “states have been forced to try new drug combinations or go to loosely regulated compounding pharmacies that manufacture variations of the drugs banned by larger companies.”

IDOC denies request for lethal injection drug inventory, source of drugs

In January, KTVB’s records request was denied, with IDOC saying that information is exempt from disclosure. After the situation in Oklahoma, KTVB again requested drug inventory and order information, and IDOC again denied the request.

IDOC declined a request for an interview about procedures and protocol in Idaho, but a spokesman wrote, “At every stage of the process our focus is on doing our job professionally and responsibly.”

The Department gave three pieces of state rule and law as the reasons for denying the request for drug inventory and origin. The first code cited is: “Any public record exempt from disclosure by federal or state law or federal regulations to the extent specifically provided for by such law or regulation.”

The second code cited is from a portion of state law regarding IDOC records exemptions: “Records of which the public interest in confidentiality, public safety, security and habilitation clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure as identified pursuant to the authority of the Idaho board of correction under section 20-212, Idaho Code.”

The third rule cited is in administrative rules for IDOC and executions: “Non-disclosure: The Department will not disclose (under any circumstance) the identity of the on-site physician; or staff, contractors, consultants, or volunteers serving on escort or medical teams; nor will the Department disclose any other information wherein the disclosure of such information could jeopardize the Department’s ability to carry out an execution.”

Governor Otter: ‘Our drugs need to be secured’

KTVB approached Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter about the records denial and Oklahoma situation at the Statehouse on Wednesday.

“Our drugs need to be secured, and where we get them, and how we go get them needs to be secure as well,” Otter said.

KTVB asked, “And by that you mean, not public?”

“We don’t want people to know,” Otter said. “Unfortunately these folks that are awaiting execution, and have been executed, have families. They have friends. They have people that would like to disrupt that process. And I understand it, but we’ve got to do everything we can to avoid any kind of a disruption in that process.”

The governor’s office staff said keeping where the execution drugs come from confidential is “protecting the source to maintain the source”. Because so few people are willing to provide lethal injection drugs, keeping anonymity protects the businesses, they said.

ACLU: ‘There should be no room for secrecy’

The ACLU of Idaho believes it’s wrong to keep any aspect of the execution process a secret from taxpayers.

“When it comes to this issue of the death penalty and an issue where the state is actually killing people, there should be no room for secrecy. In fact, transparency should be the upmost importance in times of this nature,” Leo Morales, ACLU Idaho Communications and Advocacy Director, said.

The organization is also calling on all governors and states that use capital punishment to re-examine the practice in light of Oklahoma’s botched execution.

“The botched execution should really be a reminder and a time for reflection for the state of Idaho or any state in the country that still has this old system, and really think if we should still continue to have the system,” Morales said. “We fundamentally believe it’s an arbitrary system that we should do away with and no longer continue in this country.”

Governor: Idaho’s procedures are sound

Otter says he used to work with Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin in Congress and in governors’ groups. He is confident she would mean no harm, and says he believes in Idaho’s procedures.

“We have a redundant system that we back up. We practice everything. I’ve gone out a couple of times to those run-throughs so that we try at every opportunity to avoid… We do everything we can to avoid any occurrence like that,” Otter said.

Oklahoma’s execution drugs vs. Idaho’s execution drugs

There are four options for execution drugs to be used in an Idaho execution: Two of them involve three-drug cocktails, two of them involve a single drug.

In Oklahoma, the three-drug cocktail was reported by CNN to be midazolan (a sedative), vecuronium bromide (to stop the inmate’s breathing), and potassium chloride (to stop the heart). None of Idaho’s four methods is identical to the method reportedly used in Oklahoma’s botched execution. The third drug, potassium chloride, is the only similar drug; it’s the third drug in both of Idaho’s three-drug methods.

See the attached spreadsheet in related items (unavailable on mobile) to compare Idaho’s four plans with the one used in Oklahoma.

In Idaho’s most recent execution in 2012, one of the single-drug protocols was used. That condemned killer was given a lethal dose of a sedative pentobarbital.


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