Judge Beetem agrees with ACLU in part of ‘Sunshine Law’ challenge to Corrections

In Association News On
- Updated

Missouri’s Corrections department violated the state’s “Sunshine” law when it failed to provide information to some of the people who asked to witness a state execution, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled on New Year’s Eve.

The ACLU of Missouri, which filed the lawsuit in September 2014, issued a news release last week announcing Beetem’s decision.

“The Missouri Department of Corrections continues to knowingly violate the law in order to prevent the public from seeing how it carries out executions,” Tony Rothert, the ACLU’s legal director, explained in the news release. “Every Missourian should be concerned that the Department is taking lives in their name, without transparency or oversight.”

Beetem ruled the department “committed a knowing violation of the Sunshine Law (and is) ordered to pay a civil monetary penalty of $500, as well as the reasonable attorney fees and costs Plaintiffs incurred in prosecuting their prevailing claims.”

The ACLU has challenged the Corrections department several times on how it prepares for and conducts executions.

This time, it said in its six-page lawsuit, it wanted to “better understand how the (department) Director,” George Lombardi, “exercises his discretion to pick execution witnesses,” so it “requested public records” from the department.

Missouri’s Open Meetings/Open Records, or “Sunshine,” law requires governmental agencies to provide requested information “unless otherwise provided by law.”

In May 2014, the ACLU asked for “any and all records” in the department’s possession “regarding witnesses to executions,” including:

• Those the department invited to be a witness during the previous year, and their responses.

• Members of the public or news media who asked to be witnesses, and the department’s consideration of, and responses to, those requests.

• Information about those who actually witnessed executions.

To view the entire story on the Jefferson City Tribune’s website, please click here.

This story was originally published Monday, January 11, 2016, on the Jefferson City News Tribune’s website. A link to the original newstribune.com post can be found here.

You may also read!

mo capitol building

MPA Capitol Report 2/23/2024

MPANewsBook: Statehouse News for MPA Members This report is written by Missouri School of Journalism students for publication by MPA


Week 8: Senate Advances IP Reform

The following is a legislative update from Clarkston Nelson, LLC concerning the Missouri General Assembly’s spring legislative session. It


MPA Member Alert: Political party caucus ads should run with attribution

This year, Missouri’s Republican and Democrat political parties will be hosting caucuses to determine how delegates will represent the


Leave a reply:

Mobile Sliding Menu