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Idaho: ACLU Files Suit That Reveals Officials Misled Public About Costs Associated With Executions In State

by Chad Marks

 The ACLU of Idaho brought a lawsuit after the Idaho Department of Corrections refused to turn over execution-related records to a University of Idaho law professor.

Law professor Aliza Cover was denied execution-related documents after seeking copies of the records relating to two executions that took place in 2011 and 2012. The Idaho Public Records Act permitted her to make the request. The Idaho Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) denied Covers’ request, relying on the erroneous contention that the records were exempt from public scrutiny.

Covers' lawsuit asked the court to order the records disclosed. The IDOC objected, arguing that redactions were necessary to protect individuals from protest, harassment, or violence. These claims of threats against execution team members in other states have been rejected, yet the IDOC had attempted to hide behind such accusations rather than turn over the documents that were requested.

At trial, evidence showed that Idaho was seeking to hide under a cloak of secrecy when it came to the death penalty. That evidence showed that investigative reporter Chris McDaniel was denied records that he requested based on the false explanation from the IDOC that such records did not exist. It was also revealed that IDOC, in its efforts to hide relevant information regarding executions, expanded to fraudulent record keeping practices. A former IDOC employee testified that they kept three sets of financial books. The employee made clear that these books were kept in an effort to keep the public from knowing what the real expenses to taxpayers were.

Cover testified, “If the public is not able to have this information about those issues, [i]t can not come to a decision on its moral view about the punishment that is occurring.”

An editorial by the Idaho Press urged the state to end its attempts at keeping the public ignorant of what is going on with the death penalty in Idaho. If everything is on the up and up, why the cloak of secrecy?


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