- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - A ruling by a federal judge Wednesday night kept in play a temporary ban on executions in Arizona, but it also allows condemned prisoners to press forward with a lawsuit protesting the way the state has carried out the death penalty.

U.S. District Judge Neil Wake’s 27-page order dismissed parts of a lawsuit by seven death-row inmates and the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona that seeks more transparency in the state’s execution process such as information about the suppliers of lethal-injection drugs, their expiration dates and the state’s efforts to find such drugs.

Wake dismissed the coalition from the lawsuit but allowed some of the plaintiffs’ claims to go forward, noting 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.”

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

Attorneys for the state 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. They say 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.

Dale Baich, assistant federal public defender for the District of Arizona and one of the attorneys representing death row prisoners in the lawsuit, said Wake’s ruling “took a much-needed step toward ending Arizona’s recent tradition of executions-by-experiment.

“Problematic executions and inaccurate information have been the result of the extreme secrecy surrounding lethal injection,” Baich added. “We will continue to hold the state accountable in order to ensure that any execution carried out will be legal and humane.”


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