- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Rather than release the seller and manufacturer of Louisiana’s execution drugs, state corrections officials notified a federal judge Tuesday that they were asking an appeals court to overturn his disclosure order.

U.S. District Judge James Brady had ruled that the corrections department must reveal by this week the information about where it obtained its two lethal injection drugs.

Instead of filing the information, a lawyer for the Department of Corrections and the Louisiana State Penitentiary filed a notice of appeal.

Brady told state officials they must provide the information by Friday evening unless the appeals court intervenes, refusing a state request to keep the information secret while the appeal was pending.

Attorney James Hilburn described the judge’s order as “an abuse of discretion.”

Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc and state prison Warden Burl Cain have argued that if they identify how they’re getting the drugs, they could have trouble buying more because companies don’t want to be known as helping facilitate an execution.

“These identities do not render the end-product any worse or any better and make no difference to this litigation,” Hilburn wrote in his argument on behalf of LeBlanc, Cain and Angelia Norwood, the assistant warden in charge of death row at the state prison.

Hilburn said in court documents that identifying information could subject the drug manufacturers, suppliers and testing labs to harassment and other attention that could be damaging to their businesses.

Brady said corrections officials failed to offer proof of their claims, siding with attorneys representing the prisoner scheduled for Louisiana’s next execution, who opposed attempts to hide the information.

The judge ordered most of the responses filed without shielding, but he agreed to let the corrections department file information about the health care workers who will be performing the execution under seal, saying it was prudent to protect their privacy.

The state’s request to keep the execution drug information hidden is part of an ongoing federal lawsuit filed by attorneys representing two men on death row. The lawsuit seeks more details about Louisiana’s execution method, to determine whether it violates a condemned inmate’s constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.

Amid the ongoing legal back-and-forth, the state corrections department again agreed to delay its next execution, of convicted killer Christopher Sepulvado, and Brady extended a restraining order against the lethal injection through July 23.

Louisiana’s last execution in 2010 used three chemicals, but sodium thiopental, a key anesthetic in the process, became impossible for the corrections department to obtain. Prison officials then planned to use pentobarbital, a powerful sedative, as the single lethal injection drug, but the corrections department had trouble buying it.

In January, the state announced a new execution protocol that would use a two-drug combination, following the method carried out for the first time in a lethal injection in Ohio that includes the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone.

The change came only days before Louisiana planned to execute Sepulvado for the murder of his 6-year-old stepson two decades ago. After objections from Sepulvado’s lawyer, the state agreed to a postponement of Sepulvado’s lethal injection.

Brady will hold a trial about the constitutionality of the new execution protocol on June 16.

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