- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - A judge presiding over a lawsuit that challenges the way Arizona carries out the death penalty has told lawyers to be prepared later this month to reveal the status of supplies of lethal-injection drugs.

U.S. District Judge Neil Wake on Tuesday ordered attorneys in the case to also be prepared at the June 29 hearing to discuss whether there are any issues to litigate in the lawsuit if execution drugs aren’t currently available for Arizona to use.

Wake ruled May 15 that condemned prisoners could press forward with the lawsuit seeking more transparency in the state’s execution process.

The suit is being litigated as the state has faced difficulties in obtaining drugs for executions.

The state’s lawyers told Wake in January that Arizona’s supply of a key drug used in executions was set to expire on May 31. The state hasn’t disclosed whether it has recently found another supply.

Executions in Arizona are on hold until the lawsuit is resolved.

The inmates’ lawyers contend that secrecy and last-minute changes in Arizona’s execution processes put the inmates at risk of unconstitutional pain and suffering.

Wake’s May 15 order allowed some of the plaintiffs’ claims to go forward, saying the inmates have “adequately alleged that removing the paralytic from the three-drug protocol is a feasible, readily implemented alternative that would significantly reduce a substantial risk of severe pain.”

Attorneys for the state had sought the dismissal of the lawsuit, saying the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the use of the sedative midazolam and a paralytic in lethal injections.

The state’s lawyers contend that death penalty critics are manipulating the judicial system and pharmaceutical market in their opposition to executions.

Executions in Arizona were put on hold after the July 2014 death of convicted killer Joseph Rudolph Wood, who was given 15 doses of midazolam and a painkiller and who took nearly two hours to die. His attorney says the execution was botched.


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