CDCR Documents Reveal "Secret Mission" to Acquire Lethal Injection Drug

December 6, 2010 12:00 am

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Statement by Michael Risher, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California


Following a California Superior Court order on November 30, 2010, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) released 989 pages of heavily redacted records to the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU-NC). The documents reveal a “secret mission” by the Department to acquire sodium thiopental, a controlled substance used as part of California’s lethal injection protocol.

The ACLU-NC filed suit on November 17, 2010, after the CDCR violated state law by failing to produce any records in response to a California Public Records Act (PRA) request submitted by the ACLU-NC on October 7, 2010. The request asked for basic records relating to the CDCR’s acquisition, use, and destruction of sodium thiopental.

“These documents show why we need transparency and accountability in government, especially when it comes to executions. The documents reveal that taxpayer money, not to mention hundreds of hours of public employee time, were no object in the process of acquiring these drugs.

“The documents reveal a global search for the drugs in places as far-flung as Pakistan, and refer to a ‘secret mission’ by the government to get the drugs. State officials also reached out to nearly a hundred California hospitals and community clinics. None gave the department the drug.

“State officials from California and Arizona traded execution drugs; California provided Arizona with pancuronium bromide and Arizona provided California with sodium thiopental.

“We still have many questions. More than a hundred pages were withheld and the documents we have received are heavily redacted. What we do know is that while public safety and healthcare resources are dwindling in California, state officials are wasting huge amounts of the public’s time and money on the death penalty.”

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