On Wednesday, the Miami Herald reported that Florida Republicans are advancing a bill, requested by state prison officials, that would bar the public from obtaining records that "could reasonably lead to the identification of any person or entity participating in an execution" — which would allow the state to conceal information on the supply chain for how they obtain drugs used in lethal injections.
According to the report, "Sen. Doug Broxson, a Pensacola Republican, told the Herald he filed the bill at the urging of Department of Corrections officials."
This comes as drug companies face pressure to stop using their drugs in executions — and as Florida has adopted a unique cocktail of drugs that experts warn could be excruciatingly painful to death row prisoners.
"Florida is the only state that uses etomidate, a short-acting sedative, and the first of three drugs in the lethal injection cocktail," reported Ben Conarck and Ana Ceballos. "Some medical experts say etomidate is inadequate for rendering someone truly unconscious during an execution, leading to excruciating pain for prisoners who receive the fatal doses. Johnson & Johnson, etomidate’s original manufacturer, called for states not to administer it in lethal injections in a public statement prior to Florida’s first execution using the drug."
Emory University Hospital anatomic pathologist Dr. Mark Edgar has warned that Florida's protocol is essentially torturing prisoners to death.
"In a report, Edgar wrote about the postmortem condition of prisoners who received etomidate based on four autopsy reports," said the report. "Three showed signs of pulmonary edema. Edgar concluded that prisoners who receive 200 mg of etomidate faced a 'high likelihood' of experiencing 'severe respiratory distress with associated sensations of drowning, asphyxiation, panic and terror.' 'It is my expert opinion that acute pulmonary edema is a terrifying, horrific and painful condition in a sensate individual that causes great suffering as the person struggles to breathe without being able to exchange air because of the compromised lungs,' Edgar wrote in the report."
Sourcing drugs for executions has become increasingly difficult for states with the death penalty in recent years, as public outrage over the practice and growing concerns about how painful and unreliable lethal injections are have prompted drug manufacturers to bar their drugs' use in executions. Pfizer pulled out of supplying drugs for executions in 2016, which left many states scrambling to come up with new protocols.
This has led the states still executing prisoners to become more secretive about their supply chains, to try to shield their suppliers from the public scrutiny scaring them off. Missouri for years tried to hide the identity of a pharmacy supplying their execution drugs, which turned out to engage in "hazardous" practices under cover of the secrecy.