March 10, 2014
Dear Lens reader,
The mission of The Lens is to engage and empower the residents of New Orleans by providing the information and analysis they need to advocate for more accountable and just governance.
Della Hasselle’s 21 stories on the death penalty and lethal injection exemplify our ambition and our impact.
The series arose from an offhand remark by defense attorneys that Hasselle found intriguing. Her inquiries — met by increasingly stiff resistance from Department of Corrections officials — led to her understanding that Louisiana was intending to kill a death row inmate by using poisons not only with an expired shelf life but that the manufacturer no longer sanctioned for use in state death houses.
In addition to providing a riveting blow-by-blow account of a prisoner fighting for a stay of execution, Hasselle educated readers on the complex protocols behind lethal injection. The stories parked conversation across Louisiana and the nation.
Hasselle’s scoops included exposure of a pharmaceutical compounding company providing an execution drug for use in states where the company was not licensed to do business. In a recent motion, Louisiana Department of Correction lawyers acknowledged that media coverage was responsible for impeding the state’s access to their preferred drugs, and lawyers for death row inmates have linked to The Lens’ coverage in court filings. Our coverage established irrefutably that the state needs to be more forthcoming about how these drugs are made, where they are acquired and who produces them, the lawyers said.
The professional expertise of Lens reporters is galvanized by their chronic curiosity. They question, listen, research, and investigate. But delivering information is only part of the job. Our further responsibility is to make the community care.
With another $5,000 in continuing financial support, The Lens plans to offer what we expect to be at least 10 stories and related reporting and monitoring of court filings, on this important human rights issue as the case at the center of the storm, that of death row inmate Christopher Sepulvado, winds through further levels of appeal and reconsideration.
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