Skip to content
Noah Feldman

Death-Penalty Drugmaker Shouldn't Be Anonymous

The Constitution doesn't protect a pharmacy from being shamed for supporting lethal injection.
Bring the death penalty out of the darkness.

Bring the death penalty out of the darkness.

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers

In a case that evokes a modern-day hangman’s mask, a pharmacy that provides lethal drugs for carrying out the death penalty is arguing that it has a constitutional right to anonymity. The argument should fail, because there’s no right to confidentiality in providing government services. But it shows just how dangerously far the idea of corporate constitutional rights has gone in the era of Citizens United and Hobby Lobby.

The strange situation, as reported by BuzzFeed News, arose out of a lawsuit by death row inmates in Mississippi who are arguing that the particular combination of drugs used by their state as its method of execution is cruel and unusual. In the course of the suit, the Mississippi inmates subpoenaed the Missouri Department of Corrections to find out, among other things, what drugs the state uses in its execution cocktail and who provides them. In response, Missouri argued that it had a sovereign right to keep confidential the identity of its supplier.