The Dangers of Injecting Secrecy into the Death Penalty

The Supreme Court has responded to Oklahoma's botched execution of Clayton Lockett by agreeing to hear the first lethal injection case since 2008's Baze v. Rees, which held Kentucky's lethal injection protocol constitutional. Since Baze, makers and suppliers of lethal injection drugs have increasingly refused to sell their products to death penalty states, forcing the few states that actively seek to execute death row inmates to adopted untested lethal injection protocols. These states have also developed a new tool to ward off legal challenges: secrecy laws barring access to information about lethal injection drug sources or protocols. Are critics right that these laws violate the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments by curtailing the media's access to information, forcing corrections staff to inflict pain on inmates, and violating the due process rights of the executed? Is the use of untested lethal injection protocols constitutional? How do these debates more generally reflect the continued viability of capital punishment in the United States? 
  • Adam Liptak, Supreme Court Correspondent, The New York Times
  • Mark Earley, Founder and Principal, Earley Legal Group; Member, Death Penalty Committee, The Constitution Project
  • Tanya Greene, Advocacy and Policy Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union
  • Megan McCracken, Eighth Amendment Resource Counsel, Death Penalty Clinic, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
  • Katie Townsend, Litigation Director, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Supreme Court Briefing: Williams-Yulee vs. The Florida Bar

On Thursday, January 8, 2015 the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS), in partnership with the Brennan Center for Justice and Justice at Stake hosted a panel discussion at the National Press Club where a diverse group of experts offered their insights on Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case January 20, which concerns the balance between the right to free speech and the compelling state interest in preserving public confidence in the courts. This case could determine whether candidates for judicial office possess a constitutional right to directly solicit campaign contributions from potential donors.   

 Andrew Cohen, contributing editor at The Atlantic, legal analyst for 60 Minutes and CBS Radio News, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, and commentary editor at The Marshall Project moderated the disdcussion, and Matthew Menendez, counsel of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, Scott Greytak, policy counsel and research analyst at Justice at Stake, Tracey George, professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt University and participant in an amicus brief by empirical scholars, and Ed Whelan, president, Ethics and Public Policy Center and blogger on National Review Online’s Bench Memos, joined the panel.