- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Attorneys for death row inmates urged the Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday to toss the state’s execution law, saying provisions that allow the state to withhold information about its lethal injection drugs are unconstitutional and therefore undermine the entire law.

Lawyers for the nine inmates asked justices in a court filing to uphold Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen’s decision to strike down the portion of the law that blocks state officials from revealing where Arkansas gets its execution drugs. The state appealed Griffen’s ruling to the high court, which temporarily halted eight scheduled executions until the challenge could be heard.

In their brief, the attorneys said striking down the secrecy provisions make the entire law unconstitutional.

“The act’s secrecy provisions are intertwined with the rest of the statute and cannot be stricken without undermining the intent of the entire law,” the attorneys said in their brief. “The Legislature deemed secrecy essential to effective execution procedures - a point the state has asserted time and again in this litigation.”

Griffen’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the inmates, who argue that they have a right to know the source of the drugs being used during lethal injections. The state argued in its appeal that it’s immune from the lawsuit.

But attorneys for the inmates say Griffen didn’t specifically rule on the issue of immunity and that the state’s appeal should therefore be dismissed. They also argued that even if justices take up that issue, the state is not immune from lawsuits “that seek to prevent the state’s unconstitutional acts.”

A spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office said the state would respond in court filings.

The inmates’ attorneys also asked the court to hold oral arguments in the case, a request that the state had also made in February. No hearing date has been set.

The inmates allege that the secrecy law is unconstitutional because it could lead to cruel and unusual punishment and violates a settlement in an earlier lawsuit that guaranteed inmates would be given the drug information. The state has said the agreement is not a binding contract because the original lawsuit has been fully resolved and a new execution protocol is now in place.


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