- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - An attorney for a coalition of news organizations suing Arizona over the way it carries out executions said in federal court Friday that the public has a right to know where the state gets lethal injection drugs and how many doses are administered.

The state says releasing those details would jeopardize the confidentiality of executioners and would lead suppliers to stop providing the drugs if their names were made public.

The lawsuit is one of two challenging the secrecy around executions in Arizona. A group of news organizations, including The Associated Press, filed it shortly after the July 23, 2014, execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood, who took nearly two hours to die.

His attorneys said Wood’s execution was botched, a claim the state denies. He was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination, which was not revealed until days after he died.

The attorneys made oral arguments before U.S. District Judge Murray Snow, who asked pointed questions and said he would issue a decision as soon as possible.

A different lawsuit filed before the execution by Wood and other death-row inmates is ongoing. Executions in Arizona are on hold while that lawsuit plays out in court.

An attorney for the media outlets, John Langford, said the state has an obligation under the First Amendment to provide information about where it gets lethal injection drugs, how many doses are administered during an execution and the qualifications of those who give them to inmates.

“Without that information, the public cannot meaningfully understand what’s happening in executions,” Langford said.

Jeffrey Sparks, assistant state attorney general, said the First Amendment does not extend to the details the news organizations seek. He said allowing the public to view how many doses of lethal injection drugs are given during an execution would jeopardize staff members because they could be identified.

Under the current protocol, executioners are not visible to witnesses.

Snow pushed the state on why it could not enact measures allowing executioners to be seen injecting drugs but be fully disguised by typical medical garb that others in the execution chamber wear.

The state also says that suppliers would stop providing execution drugs if the state were to reveal where they came from because of threats they could receive.

“The First Amendment doesn’t go that far,” Sparks said.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide