Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Arkansas death row inmates challenging constitutionality of lethal injection secrecy laws

The state of Arkansas was ordered to release information about its supplier of lethal injection drugs to attorneys for death row inmates who are challenging the state's execution secrecy law, .
Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen said the state must "identify or otherwise object to disclosure" of the manufacturers, distributor, seller or supplier of Arkansas' three lethal injections drugs by Oct. 21. That includes turning over package inserts, shipping labels, laboratory test results and other information to the court and the inmates' attorneys.
The state can submit a request for a protective order for the drug manufacturer and supplier information, Griffen said.
The state attorney general could ask Griffen to uphold the state's secrecy law as it's written, which requires information about the source of the drugs to be kept under wraps. It could also ask that if the source is shared with the inmates' attorneys, they be barred from releasing it to anyone else.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge "is considering her options," according to Judd Deere, a spokesman for the her office, which is representing the Department of Correction in the lawsuit.
Jeff Rosenzweig, an attorney for the inmates, said he and the other counsel would not comment on the order.
Griffen temporarily halted executions for eight inmates who were scheduled for lethal injections between Oct. 21 and Jan. 14 in a recent ruling.    
The state's three-drug protocol includes the sedative midazolam, the paralytic vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride, which would stop the inmate's heart. The state purchased the drugs in late June for about $24,000.
The vecuronium bromide in the state's medical storage safe will expire in June 2016. The potassium chloride expires in January 2017, while the midazolam expires in April 2017. Midazolam was implicated after executions last year in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma went on longer than expected, with inmates gasping and groaning as they died.
The death row inmates are challenging the constitutionality of Arkansas' secrecy law, including whether it violates a previous settlement agreement from a different lawsuit where the state agreed to tell the inmates the source of the lethal drugs.
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