Outing the Lethal Injectors

Prison Legal News editor Paul Wright is looking to publish the names of executioners in Walla Walla.

The March 31 resignations of a four-member execution team at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla appeared to have been provoked by the likelihood that their identities would surface in a court battle over the constitutionality of injections. News reports indicated the four anonymous volunteers, who administer the injections to death-row inmates, quit their posts over concern that attorneys for three condemned inmates could leak personal information being gathered for legal challenges.

The reports may be only half right, says Prison Legal News editor Paul Wright. It was likely because of him that the team resigned, he suspects. And the four volunteers should be worried their names will be made public, since Wright might reveal them in his magazine.

A former inmate who served 17 years for the second-degree murder of a drug dealer, Wright filed a public records request with the state Department of Corrections in January asking for the identities of those who participate in executions. “The history of state murder is there’s never a shortage of executioners,” says Wright. “But if we are going to have the death penalty, the public should know who its killers are.”

A controversial figure who regularly challenges the state to release sensitive documents, Wright sometimes has to go to court over them; he won a record $541,000 fine from the state in 2007 after officials illegally withheld the disciplinary records of prison medical providers. His latest request came after the resignation late last year of the department’s top medical officer, Dr. Marc Stern, who said it was unethical for him—a physician sworn to save lives—to supervise executions. Wright, whose publication has frequently reported on questionable medical procedures in U.S. prisons, says, “Knowing doctors, I figured if one resigned, at least a dozen would be happy to kill people. Hence the records request.”

In part, he wants to find out who on the team is a doctor. If any show up on the records he obtains, says Wright, “I will review their medical discipline, criminal, and litigation histories, and see what turns up. And PLN will most likely alert medical licensing authorities to the fact that medical personnel are violating their professional and ethical responsibilities.”

And yes, he’ll publish their names.

More in News & Comment

Business alliance serves women of African diaspora in King County

Nourah Yonous launched the African Women Business Alliance in 2017 to find ways to lift women up.

Fire along Twisp River Road in the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest in 2018. Courtesy photo
Wildfire response: State unveils funding legislation proposal

Last year, Department of Natural Resources responded to record number of wildfires.

A new report, complete with recommendations to the Legislature, has been released by a statewide task force that was formed to address a lack of child care in Washington. File photo
Report outlines lack of child care in Washington

In King County, supply doesn’t meet demand for child care.

You’ve been hacked! Data breaches in Washington on the rise

But fewer people had personal information compromised from cyberattacks in 2019 compared to 2018.

Demonstrators from La Resistencia protest Amazon’s involvement with ICE. Photo courtesy of La Resistencia
How will the U.S. respond to climate refugees?

Business as usual has been harder borders, are there other ways to address climate migration?

Stolen rescue dog, lost peacock reunited with owners

Federal Way police share emotional reunions after tracking down stolen dog in abandoned home, finding lost peacock.

A young girl holds up a ‘Don’t Pollute I Live Here’ sign in the crowd during the Youth Climate Strike at Cal Anderson Park on Friday, March 15, 2019 in Seattle, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
King County builds blueprint for health, climate change

The plan will inform how the Board of Health addresses climate change-related health issues.

File photo of a pothole
King County approves roads, bridges funding

The capital projects funding is significantly less than previous years.

Safe drug consumption sites have been recommended by the King County Heroin and Opioid Task Force. Pictured is a safe consumption site in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Photo supplied by ARCHES in Lethbridge
What’s been happening with safe injection sites?

There hasn’t been much coverage this year compared to the last couple years.

Most Read