August 2, 2013
Judge rules execution details needed to further public conversation about the death penalty
DENVER –Disclosure of Colorado’s current execution protocol will further the public interest and facilitate public conversation about the state’s use of the death penalty, according to a ruling issued yesterday by Denver District Court Judge R. Michael Mullins.
The court ruled that the Colorado Department of Corrections’ denial of an ACLU of Colorado request for access to a “restricted distribution” document outlining Colorado’s execution protocol and training was “arbitrary and an abuse of discretion.”
“We welcome the Court’s ruling. It’s a good day for transparency in public records and for furthering the public conversation about the death penalty in Colorado,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein.
According to Judge Mullins’ ruling, “CDOC has failed to demonstrate that disclosure of a properly redacted Execution Protocol would be contrary to the public interest. Particularly in light of Governor Hickenlooper's recent reprieve, which calls for a public conversation about the death penalty in Colorado, disclosure of these records would further the public interest.”
“The public has an interest in knowing how Colorado intends to carry out its executions, one of any government’s most serious functions,” said Lauren Schmidt of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, who argued the case as a cooperating attorney on behalf of the ACLU. “The Court’s ruling will help facilitate an important discussion about Colorado’s lethal injection procedures.”
Though the court’s ruling did not specify a deadline for providing the redacted document, Silverstein said he hopes the Department of Corrections will make it available “as soon as humanly possible.”