Death Penalty

Larry Flynt Fights to Shed Light on Missouri's Mysterious Death Penalty Drugs

Missouri, like many states, is secretive about the drugs it uses in executions.

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wallyg/Flickr

Publisher and adult-entertainment mogul Larry Flynt—whose Hustler magazine has been at the center of many First Amendment-related legal battles since the early '70s—is back in federal court. Only this time he's fighting to expose not sexy ladies but Missouri's death penalty protocols.

On Wednesday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on whether Flynt should be able to intervene in a challenge to Missouri's execution methods filed by nearly two dozen death-row inmates, including the man who attempted to murder Flynt and left him paralyzed from the waist down. That man, serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin, was executed by the state of Missouri in 2013.

Before Franklin's death, Flynt had campaigned for his clemency. "If it was a deterrent, I'd support the death penalty, but it's not," Flynt told the Guardian at the time.

Flynt also sought permission to intervene in the inmates' lawsuit, which alleged that Missouri lethal-injection methods violated 8th Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Many of the records filed as part of the case were sealed, and Flynt wanted these records to be made public. A federal judge swiftly denied Flynt's request, holding that without a common interest with the inmates, a general interest in the subject matter didn't give Flynt standing to intervene.

With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri, Flynt is now appealing that ruling. ACLU lawyers say it's a matter of of Flynt's First Amendment rights. "It could be any publisher, it could be any media outlet or any member of the public that's trying to get access to secret court records," Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, told St. Louis Public Radio.

"This case is about whether the media or the public have a right to ask a court to unseal records that the court has for some reason decided to keep secret."

The entire process of how Missouri procures and uses execution drugs is shrouded in secrecy—and recently scandal. State corrections officials repeatedly said that they don't rely on Midazolam, the drug involved in three botched executions in the U.S. last year. "We have no intention to (use Midazolam in executions)," Missouri's Director of the Department of Corrections, George Lombardi, said in a January 2014 deposition. "We have Pentobarbital that we use." 

Pentobarbital is, in fact, what the state said would be used to kill Franklin in November 2013. But an investigation by St. Louis Public Radio found Missouri used Midazolam in all nine executions performed between November 2013 and September 2014.

If the state can't even be forthright about which drugs it is using, it's no wonder it keeps secret where the drugs from. But Missouri is far from the only state to obfuscate the origins of death-penalty drugs.

Part of the issue stems from the fact that European drugmakers won't sell to state corrections departments if they plan to use the drugs for executions. This has created an execution drug shortage in America. States don't really like to talk about how they're coping with this.

Because the drugs used in executions are still sold to U.S. entities for other purposes (including sometimes to state corrections' hospitals), it's possible some of them are still finding their way to death row inmates. States may also look to compounding pharmacies, which are pharmacies that don't manufacture drugs themselves but combine different drugs or alter the ingredients to tailor meds to individualized needs.

Correctional departments in places such as Missouri and Louisiana argue that state law allows the identity of those involved with executions to be kept confidential, and this includes the makers of execution drugs. Lawyers for condemned prisoners say without openness about the drugs used, there's no way to tell whether an execution is cruel or humane. And folks such as Flynt say the public has a right to know, too. 

Last year several news organizations, including the Associated Press and Guaridan U.S., filed a separate suit seeking to shed sunlight on Missouri's lethal injection drugs. The state's Department of Corrections said this info was unavailable "pursuant to the state secret doctrine." The Missouri Supreme Court has previously rejected such a doctrine.  

Fourteen media organizations, including The Washington Post and The New York Times, are supporting Flynt's fight to force more disclosure. A lawyer for the groups argued yesterday that Flynt should be allowed to join the inmates' lawsuit on First Amendment grounds. If the 8th Circuit rules in Flynt's favor, this will merely give him permission to intervene and ask that court records be unsealed. The case would likely be remanded to the district court for a decision on whether to actually unseal them. 

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  1. Everyone already knows it’s Coke and Pop-rocks.

  2. I just might have been to the establishment in the photo before.

  3. These types of articles strike me as concern trolling

      1. Because who gives a fuck if a serial killer is sufficiently sedated during his own execution? Concern trolls.

        1. Because “cruel and unusual.” That’s why.

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  5. As usual, that disgusting smut peddler is doing Galt’s work.

    If I had my way there would be a constitutional amendment that prohibited the government from keeping any secrets, with a possible exception for the military during a declared war. But even that would have a limit of a few years.

    1. Dude, the NSA has naked pictures of Barbara Boxer and Henry Waxman. You’re saying you want those released? You’re a braver man than I, Hugh.

      1. I want to see them. I want to rub them on my broken body and dream.

      2. Maybe if the American people could see the true horror of the bombed-out war zone in Barbara Boxer’s pantsuit, they’d be less willing to send their young men there in the first place.

  6. I watch Imus in the Morning, and usually find this guy imitating Larry Flynt funny:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sU0ZVgPILMU

  7. my classmate’s aunt makes $66 /hr on the internet . She has been without a job for seven months but last month her payment was $18218 just working on the internet for a few hours. check it out…..
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  8. Great but needs more barely legal girls

  9. Why doesn’t Missouri (and the rest of these states) just use the same drug Oregon uses for assisted suicide?

  10. States keep their drugs secret because when they’re open about it the SJW crowd swoops down on the manufacturers like Muslims on a french cartoonist.

    1. Oh shut the fuck up, as much as I loathe SJWs they haven’t fucking killed anybody. Get a grip, asshole.

  11. “If it was a deterrent, I’d support the death penalty, but it’s not”

    False. It is in fact a deterrent. Recent research shows that each execution deters 3 to 18 murders.

    Additionally, I’m all for government transparency, but the worry over which drug to use to, you know, KILL people is ridiculous. Bad people who are so bad that they have to be put down, like Joseph Paul Franklin, should just be killed. It’s unreasonable to scour methodologies to figure out the least bad way to kill someone. It’s even more unreasonable to worry about whether or not a condemned man who is, you know, BEING executed, is conscious for his execution. in fact, I’d prefer just vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride being used on a fully conscious person. Being aware of the justice served to you, which you brought about my your own evil actions, is a part of the justice.

    I’d understand if the condemned were being tortured to death by means of rack, or drawn and quartered, or one of the many creative ways man has devised to bring about a long drawn out and painful death, but the reality is that pretty much all the methods officially used in the history the US to execute a condemned man are short and to the point, including lethal injection.

    This is just yet more empty faux moral preening by another morally debased hack trying to claim some sort of moral high road, after a career built on taking the moral low road.

    1. False. It is in fact a deterrent. Recent research shows that each execution deters 3 to 18 murders.

      Citation?

      This is just yet more empty faux moral preening by another morally debased hack trying to claim some sort of moral high road, after a career built on taking the moral low road.

      I suspect you think this statement is terribly clever. It isn’t.

    2. Lol, horseshit. It’s not a deterrent at all you fucking putz.

  12. Putting aside the nasty moral and legal repercussions raised by the very existence of the death penalty, here’s what’s been bugging me:
    1. What is the reason for Midazolam (aka Versed) in executions? It’s just a strong benzo, used for conscious sedation in minor surgical procedures. It relaxes you so it’s hard to move, but you can follow instructions. It’s not a painkiller, it causes amnesia so you don’t remember pain. That’s the theory, anyway. My neck and knee surgeries are pretty clear memories. Like other benzos, a fatal overdose is near impossible without adding other sedatives. So,

    2. Reports say it’s being used in along with fentanyl for executions. Fentanyl is often added to the mix for minor surgeriy; nothing can beat a 15-30 second fentanyl rush. Together, the two drugs make surgery almost fun. Fentanyl is used in tiny amounts; the strongest opioid ever developed, it’s 100x stronger than morphine, 40-50x stronger than heroin. Junkies often OD on it. So why add Versed to itto kill so meone? And how do they botch theexecutions where it’s used? In the real world, it’s hard to use recreationally without dying; administering a lethal dose isn’t rocket science. Therapeutic doses are measured in micrograms,Shooting someone up with a milligram results in instant, painless death every time. Even state governments shouldn’t be able to find employees incompetent enough to fuck it up. Forget monkeys, houseplants could probably manage it. I don’t get it.

    1. “Botched” in these instances merely means that the person being executed regained consciousness during their execution. In other words, a VERY loose definition of “botched”. Google could have helped you with this, if you were actually interested.

      1. “Botched” in these instances merely means that the person being executed regained consciousness during their execution.

        Several of these stories involve the prisoner waking up and writhing, including mumbled exclamations, apparently from pain. One prisoner said that he felt like he was on fire before finally expiring.

        You are the one who needs to prattle off to Google.

    2. I’m also left wondering what you think are the “nasty moral … repercussions” that are “raised by the very existence of the death penalty”. The mere existence of the death penalty doesn’t raise any nasty moral repercussions. In fact, the disuse of it raises a lot of nasty moral repercussions. It is quite moral and just to permanently remove those who are too dangerous to exist peacefully in society, as well as to permanenetly remove those who have perpetrated terrible crimes.

      1. It is quite moral and just to permanently remove those who are too dangerous to exist peacefully in society, as well as to permanenetly remove those who have perpetrated terrible crimes.

        Assuming of course that they are, in fact, guilty….

        …which is quite an assumption.

        1. Especially considering the cops, DAs and Judges involved in the process.

  13. I don’t see why they can’t just administer enough heroine (or the equivalent) to kill a horse. The cops destroy enough of that every year for a decade of executions.

    That said, I oppose the death penalty because I don’t think the legal system is competent enough to make sure the people it executes are really guilty.

  14. What’s wrong with carbon monoxide?

    They fall aspleep in less than five minutes, then die painlessly five minutes later.

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