While political observers speculate on the factors shaping Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's thinking on whether or not to prevent the execution later this summer of convicted murderer Nathan Dunlap, civil libertarians are demanding to know how the procedure would be carried out.
In Colorado, capital punishment is administered by lethal injection. But the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has been asking for information detailing which drugs, protocols and training would be used in what would be the first execution in the state since 1997. The Department of Corrections has refused the group's request.
On Tuesday, the ACLU filed suit in Denver District Court, arguing that information about the execution would facilitate public discussion about the death penalty here. Debate over execution by lethal injection often includes consideration of how the injection can be administered least painfully and of the ethical questions the procedure raises for the pharmacists supplying the drugs, for example.
"By refusing to disclose the details of the execution procedure, including the drug or drugs that may be used and how they are obtained, as well as information about the companies that may be supplying the chemicals, CDOC infringes, without adequate justification, on the public's legitimate right to information about how its government operates with regard to one of its most serious undertakings," said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein in a release.
The ACLU complaint cites the Colorado Board of Pharmacy Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits "any practice which detrimentally affects the patient" and state that a "pharmacist may not dispense a prescription drug or a controlled substance based on an order that does not list a specific patient."
Dunlap was convicted of killing four people at a Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant in 1993. A judge decided his execution will take place in late August on a day chosen by the DOC.
Hickenlooper is under pressure to commute Dunlap's sentence. One factor being raised is how race has played into sentencing in Colorado. Dunlap, like the two other prisoners on death row here, is African American in a state where, according to 2012 Census data, only 4.3 percent of the population is black.