This Nov. 30, 2009 photo shows the witness room facing the execution chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio.
Caroline Groussain/AFP/Getty

Eric Holder calls for more transparency in lethal injections

Amid renewed controversy over capital punishment, Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday called for more transparency in lethal injections.

Melissa Harris-Perry, 7/26/14, 10:59 AM ET

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In an interview with Gwen Ifill on “PBS NewsHour,” Holder said those on death row have a right to know what’s in the pharmaceutical cocktails used for their executions, according to a preview obtained by NBC News’ Pete Williams. After traditional lethal injection drugs were pulled from the market, states were forced to find new drug combinations, the contents of which they often keep secret.

“For the state to exercise that greatest of all powers – to end a human life – it seems to me, just on a personal level, that transparency would be a good thing and to share the information about what chemicals are being used, what drugs are being used,” he said.

The controversy over lethal injection comes in the aftermath of several botched executions, including a recent high-profile case in Arizona, in which the condemned man stayed alive for almost two hours after the injection.

“There might not be a legal requirement for transparency and just talking about or describing the drugs that are used. But we sometimes have to go beyond that which is legally required to do something that is right,” Holder told Ifill.

Despite a number of lawsuits from relatives, advocates, and news organizations, federal courts have been divided on whether states need to release details of the drugs. The old three-drug mix has become scarce after the European companies that manufactured it were banned from selling the drugs to U.S. prisons in 2009.

The White House called an earlier botched execution “inhumane,” and President Obama has said that he’s skeptical of the deterrence effect of capital punishment.

Capital Punishment and Eric Holder

Eric Holder calls for more transparency in lethal injections