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February 24, 2015

Richmond, VA – Today the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia welcomes the Virginia House of Delegates decision to reject a bill (SB 1393, Saslaw) that would have shrouded Virginia’s lethal injection execution procedures in secrecy.

“We were glad to work with the VA Catholic Conference, Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and the Virginia Press Association to defeat this legislation that would have brought secret, experimental executions to the Commonwealth,” said Frank Knaack, ACLU of Virginia Director of Public Policy and Communications.  “By prohibiting the public from knowing anything about the lethal injection drug source, materials, or components, the legislation would have made the execution process almost entirely secret and subject to the unsupervised whim of the Director of the Department of Corrections.  This level of secrecy and unchecked government authority is unacceptable, particularly when we’re talking about the awesome power of the government to kill in our name."

“We are grateful particularly to those members of  the House of Delegates who took a principled stand for transparency and accountability in government today despite accusations that to do so would be said to mean that they are against the death penalty,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia. “We thank them for recognizing that transparency and accountability are necessary to democracy, not just buzzwords that you cast aside cavalierly in an election year. Whether you oppose the death penalty, as we do, or support its continued use, government in the sunshine is nowhere more important than where it involves the exercise of the government’s ultimate power over a person’s life.”

Senate Bill 1393 (Sen. Saslaw) would have allowed the Department of Corrections to contract with compounding pharmacies to make up drugs for use in lethal injection and  exempt from public disclosure laws the manufacturer of and the materials and components used to create the drugs.  The bill was part of Governor McAuliffe’s legislative package and was actively lobbied by the Department of Corrections and the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.