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Lawsuit Against the State of Arizona Seeks to Find Out Its Execution Protocols

Arizona is still dragging its feet at the thought of divulging its execution protocols — to anyone that asks.  Different groups across the state, including the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, are joining forces in an interesting lawsuit arguing there is a First Amendment right for both inmates and the public to know the execution protocol.  This is a really interesting case from a public records and a constitutional perspective.

This lawsuit is a part of an on-going battle for states to reveal what methods are used in executions and arguing there is a right to know states’ execution protocols.

In recent years, states have had a difficult time procuring the drugs needed to carry out executions.  Companies own morals and public protests deterred many domestic drug manufacturers from permitting their drugs to be used in executions.  States either had to find new sources for the drugs or to find new ways to carry out the executions. See Wood v. Ryan, 759 F.3d 1076, 1101 (9th Cir. 2014).

For a while, Arizona illegally imported sodium thiopental from Great Britain.  “Thiopental is a short-acting barbiturate that was used as part of a three-drug, lethal-injection cocktail. It served as anesthesia before a paralyzing drug and a heart-stopping drug were administered. But the sole U.S. supplier of thiopental stopped producing it in 2009 because it had largely been replaced in hospitals by more modern drugs.”  Reported the AZ Republic.  Arizona then turned to a manufacturer in Great Britain that was unauthorized to export the drug.

The FDA is “permanently enjoined from permitting the entry of, or releasing any future shipments of, foreign manufactured thiopental into interstate commerce.” Beaty v. FDA, 853 F. Supp. 30 (D. D.C. 2012).

This left states like Arizona in unknown territory, searching for new procedures for carrying out executions.

Axe execution equipment

— Photo taken by: Der Vollstrecker, Flickr.

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