Bill introduced to keep source of deadly injectable drug secret

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Laws that would prohibit Idaho officials from releasing the drugs used in lethal injection executions were introduced Monday by the House State Affairs Committee.

The Idaho Department of Justice has long tried to keep secret details about where and how it obtains lethal injectable drugs, but Caldwell Republican Rep. Greg Chaney’s bill would make that secrecy part of state law.

Chaney said the secrecy law was necessary because of the “wake-cancel culture,” and claimed that death penalty advocates sought to identify and then publicly shame the companies that offer lethal injectable drugs. Chaney said such cases have happened across the country, although he gave no details.


Now the companies refuse to sell the deadly injectable drugs into Idaho unless they are assured of confidentiality, he said.

“They’ve been successful enough across the country that they’re telling our Department of Corrections, don’t even call us if you can’t afford us anonymity,” Chaney said.

The State Affairs Committee agreed to introduce the bill by ballot.

The suitability and provenance of lethal injectables are often legally challenged when states plan executions. Ineffective drugs can lead to failed executions, violating the US Constitution’s 8th Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Idaho prison officials have long said they fear they will not be able to source drugs for future executions if their suppliers think they could be exposed. Big pharmaceutical companies have refused to sell drugs to states they believe will be used for executions, forcing some states to seek more novel sources, including compound pharmacies and drugs from other countries like India.

More than a dozen states have enacted laws preventing the release of information about the origin of their execution drugs since 2011, while several other states have invoked existing laws or regulations to keep that information private.

In 2020, the Idaho Supreme Court ordered the Idaho Department of Justice to release information about where officials obtained lethal injectable drugs used in recent executions in response to a public lawsuit. In this case, the state had to reveal the identity of a drug supplier who was no longer in the business of supplying the drugs.

Access to lethal injectables could become an issue in the case of Gerald Ross Pizzutto Jr., who was sentenced to death for the 1985 killing of two prospectors near McCall.

The Idaho Department of Justice was scheduled to execute Pizzutto last year for the 1985 murders of two prospectors near McCall. However, that execution was called off after the state’s parole board recommended that Pizzutto’s sentence be commuted to life in prison without parole. State is asking Idaho Supreme Court to go ahead with execution as planned; Arguments in this case are not planned yet.

Pizzuto’s attorneys with the Idaho Federal Defense Services have also sued the state over his execution proceedings, and the Supreme Court has not yet made a decision in the case.

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This story has been updated to correct Rep. Greg Chaney’s name.

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