The Department of Corrections (DOC) has adopted a new policy that no longer allows witnesses to see the inmate being led into the death chamber.
The ACLU is concerned about making the process more secretive, and believes the changes were made following critiques about the recent execution of convicted murderer Ricky Gray.
“He [Gray] spent 33 minutes behind the curtain and no one knows what happened during that time,” said ACLU Virginia Director of Public Policy and Communications Bill Farrar.
DOC says the lethal injection went smoothly, and that the delay was simply because of difficulty inserting the IV into Gray. Department spokesperson Lisa Kinney says waiting to open the curtain until after the IV line is placed reduces stress on staff. Kinney says this is important to ensuring the procedure is carried out quickly and safely.
Farrar wants to see an independent investigation into the matter. He is also concerned the death penalty manual was revised and certain transparency measures got cut after Gray’s execution.
"We have secrets upon secrets upon secrets with Virginia's process of executing people in this state and it needs to stop," said Farrar.
The department says its manual is updated periodically to ensure best practices.
The ACLU, which is opposed to capital punishment, has also challenged a recent change in Virginia that allows secret compounding pharmacies to make lethal injection cocktails.
State lawmakers and Governor Terry McAuliffe approved the privacy provision given that fewer companies have been willing to be on record making the drugs used for executions.
Farrar claims, "They're colluding toward more secrecy."
Kinney says the privacy provision brings the commonwealth in line with other states.
There are six inmates currently on death row in Virginia, with Ivan Teleguz being scheduled to be executed in April.
NBC29 contacted the governor's office Friday, March 17, to see if the administration had a response to the concerns raised by the ACLU. Governor McAuliffe’s office has yet to respond.
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