Friday, April 4, 2014

Postscript: US Supreme Court refuses to block execution

Tommy Sells was murdered by the State of Texas last night. He was killed after the US Supreme Court rejected his appeal of a ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that vacated Federal District Judge Vanessa Gilmore's order for the state to disclose the source of its death drug.

The State of Texas relied on the specious argument that disclosing the source of the death drugs would expose the compounding pharmacy (or pharmacies) that supplied the drugs to violence. The real argument was that compounding pharmacies wouldn't provide the drugs if their names were to be made public. 

It's just not that great for business when a pharmacy is linked to executions. I've said it before, pharmacists have an obligation to do no harm. Some would rather have the money. If there's enough money on the table, a whole lot of ethical dilemmas seem to go the way of the dinosaurs. But if those arrangements are made public those same pharmacists would back away from the table and slink back into the night.

That is the fear of state officials. They know the price of the drugs would escalate dramatically if the suppliers knew their names would be released. And the higher the cost, the harder it is to justify the expense.

The US Supreme Court apparently couldn't be bothered about another Eighth Amendment challenge to lethal injection. Maybe the justices were still recovering from the strange contortions and genuflections they were forced into when claiming that money is speech. I mean, hell, it's a whole lot more important to ensure that candidates can be openly bought and sold by the highest bidder than it is to think about the legal implications of allowing states to keep the names of their drug suppliers secret.

There are far too many things we let the government keep to itself. When you think about it, the very notion that some things are far too sensitive for the government to inform the governed about turns representative democracy on its head. Never forget that the government works for us; not the other way around. The default position should be "no secrets." It shouldn't be up to the public to demand to know what the government is doing behind our backs with our money; it should be the government's burden to show why certain things should be kept secret.

The question gets more tortured when the focus is on the manner in which the government exercises its most intrusive power - the power to take a life - and not on some shadowy alleged threat from overseas. The name of the compounding pharmacy that produced the death drug isn't a matter of national security. The financial arrangements between the state and the pharmacy aren't matters of national security. Whether the drugs were ever tested to make certain they did what they were supposed to do (and how they were supposed to do it) isn't a matter of national security.

Those are matters of political expediency. Keeping those matters secret means it will cost the state less money to convince a pharmacist to rationalize his choice to aid in the murder of another person. As my mama used to tell me, if you'd be ashamed to do something in public, you probably shouldn't be doing it in private.

But what does it matter? Condemned prisoners aren't lining up to take advantage of the Supreme Court's emasculation of campaign finance laws.

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