Arkansas asks court to block order on execution drugs

AP News
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Posted: Mar 31, 2017 7:12 PM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas prison officials asked the state's highest court Friday to stay a judge's order that they must disclose more information about one of the drugs they plan to use in the executions of eight men over a 10-day period in April.

The attorney general's office asked the state Supreme Court to issue a stay of Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen's order requiring Arkansas to release copies of the package insert and labels for its supply of potassium chloride, one of the three drugs used in its lethal injection protocol.

The state said it had released the documents, but had redacted information on the labels that it says could lead to identification of the drug's supplier. Steven Shults, the attorney who sued the state for the information, declined to comment on the case Friday.

Shults' attorneys asked the court to deny the state's motion, saying there was no evidence that the information withheld would identify the drug's supplier.

The filing said releasing all of the information would give Shults "an unreviewable victory that will completely undermine and obviate the confidentiality provisions" of the state's lethal injection law.

Arkansas hasn't executed an inmate since 2005 because of legal challenges and difficulty obtaining drugs. The state's 2015 lethal injection law keeps secret the source of the state's execution drugs.

The prison officials, who plan to execute eight inmates in a 10-day period next month before another one of the state's lethal drugs expires April 30, had refused to release packing slips that detail how the drugs are to be used. The Associated Press has previously used the labels to identify drugmakers whose products would be used in executions against their will. The AP renewed its request after the state acquired its potassium chloride in March, but was also rejected.

The AP started another request after Griffen issued his order Thursday. The Department of Correction on Friday declined to release the records to the AP pending the court's decision on its request for a stay.

The prison system says its suppliers need anonymity to take part in execution. Griffen found that state confidentiality laws don't apply to pharmaceutical companies that merely produce drugs.

In Friday's filing, the state said the documents it released to Shults identify the manufacturer of the drugs but said it redacted numbers from the labels that would identify the supplier. The filing also asked the high court to stay proceedings so Griffen wouldn't find officials in contempt by redacting some of the information he ordered released.

In addition to keeping information about the drugs secret, the prison will not release details on its training plan, the experience level of its execution team members or the identity of potential citizen witnesses.

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