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SPJ urges Virginia lawmakers to reject execution secrecy bill


UPDATE 2/24/15: Virginia’s House of Delegates rejected the execution secrecy bill (Senate Bill 1393) today by a vote of 56-42. SPJ wants to thank freedom of information supporters in Virginia who fought this legislation. The Society hopes that Virginia’s actions today will serve as a guidepost as other states consider similar legislation.

February 12, 2015

Dana Neuts, SPJ National President, 360-920-1737, dneuts@spj.org
Paul Fletcher,SPJ National President-Elect, 804-873-1893, pfletcher.spj@gmail.com
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Communications Strategist, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists urges the Virginia House of Delegates to reject a bill that would shroud the execution process in that state in secrecy and darkness.

Senate Bill 1393, filed by Sen. Richard L. Saslaw, D-Fairfax, was passed by the Senate and is now being considered by the House. The bill would allow the state Department of Corrections to contract with any ‘external entity’ to compound the drugs used for execution by lethal injections. But a provision of the bill exempts the contracting process, identity of providers and the drug components used for execution from the Freedom of Information Act.

A similar bill passed the Ohio legislature late last year, and other states that execute by lethal injection are facing similar issues such as shortages of drugs used in executions and protests against companies that provide the drugs. The Ohio law, which was also protested for making executions secretive, is being challenged in federal court in that state.

When it comes to carrying out a death sentence, more transparency and more reporting should be required, not less.

The Virginia Press Association has also spoken out against the legislation. SPJ urges Virginia journalists and others concerned with open government and sunshine laws to tell lawmakers to vote “no” on this bill.

To support transparency, we encourage opponents of the bill to call or email the following House Courts of Justice Committee members and Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office:

David Albo, committee chairman, (804) 698-1042 or DelDAlbo@house.virginia.gov
Greg Habeeb, (804) 698-1008 or DelGHabeeb@house.virginia.gov
Randy Minchew, (804) 698-1010 or DelRMinchew@house.virginia.gov
Manoli Loupassi, (804) 698-1068 or DelMLoupassi@house.virginia.gov
Jennifer McClellan, (804) 698-1071 or DelJMcClellan@house.virginia.gov
Gov. Terry McAuliffe, (804) 786-2211 or send an email here

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit spj.org.


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