Lethal injection

Alabama's lethal injection chamber.

If the state of Alabama is going to execute condemned prisoners, it must be upfront and transparent about the process. Today, that’s not happening.

Until that changes, Alabama and its embattled Department of Corrections carries the stench of a government that wishes the public didn’t have a right to know how it plans to kill those on death row.

On Tuesday, Star reporter Tim Lockette outlined the situation of inmate Thomas Arthur, 73, who has been on death row since 1983 for the murder of Troy Wicker of Muscle Shoals. Arthur’s execution has been delayed as Alabama, along with other states that execute prisoners by lethal injection, dealt with a shortage of the necessary drugs.

Stocked with its new three-drug execution cocktail — an anaesthetic, a drug that relaxes the muscles, another drug that stops the heart — Alabama is on the verge of resuming executions. Problem is, the state hasn’t revealed the protocol it will follow when executions begin again at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore.

The state, according to Lockette, says its protocol follows that of Florida, which has executed seven prisoners without significant difficulties since adopting this new combination of drugs.

But as for specifics?

The state isn’t saying — not to the public, not to inmates and their counsel, and not to The Star, which asked for a copy of the Department of Corrections’ new execution protocol. The DOC says pending litigation forces it to keep that information hidden from view.

That litigation is with Arthur, the death-row inmate whose attorney has filed a motion with the Alabama Supreme Court over the information. The state has plans to execute Arthur, but it won’t give him or his attorney the details for how it will happen and what safety measures will be in place. That’s particularly important considering the prevalence of stories about botched lethal-injection executions in other states in recent years.

Arthur’s attorney, Suhana Han, told The Star that “[T]here’s no basis for the state of Alabama to refuse to provide us with a copy.”


State-sponsored killing is a stain on Alabama’s reputation. It neither deters violent crime nor rehabilitates the guilty. On this, the United States is the outlier, the exception: most civilized, Western nations hold an abhorrent view of the death penalty. So, too, should the United States.

Alabama owns no believable or defensible excuse for refusing to release its execution protocol. Closeted information makes people believe there’s something to hide.