"Judge: Ark. lethal injection records FOIA exempt," is the AP report by Michael Stratford, via the Stuttgart Daily Leader.
Death-row inmates cannot use Arkansas' open records law to obtain information about the origin, history of quality of the drugs the state will use to execute them, a state judge ruled Monday.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Collins Kilgore ruled after a hearing Monday that communication between the Department of Correction and a drug company was not subject to disclosure under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act — even for the inmates who may one day receive a fatal dose.
Six condemned killers sought the information despite a section of the FOI law that limits the release of certain information about execution procedures — including how the drugs are obtained. The Legislature last month changed execution procedures after the state Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that previous lawmakers had given the Correction Department too much control over the process.
Kilgore said that, following a review of emails and other communication between the Department of Correction and a drug company, he had to reject the inmates' request. A Department of Correction official testified Monday the documents reflected an attempt to open an account with a drug manufacturer to procure new lethal injection drugs.
An attorney for the six inmates, Jeff Rosenzweig of Little Rock, had said they should have a right to the information because of problems with drugs obtained in the past. He noted in a court filing that his clients discovered in 2011 that the state was seeking to execute them using "unregulated, non-FDA-approved chemicals that it obtained from a business operating out of the back of an overseas driving school."
After Kilgore's decision Monday, Rozenzweig said the inmates would appeal.
The Arkansas News Bureau reports, "Judge denies inmates access to execution documents."
A judge Monday turned down a request by a group of death-row inmate for access to information about the drugs the state plans to use to execute them.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Collins Kilgore ruled that the information sought by six condemned killers was exempt from public disclosure under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act under provisions of a law passed just this year setting out procedures for the Department of Correction to carry out lethal injections.
Attorney Jeff Rosenzweig filed the suit in Pulaski County Circuit Court last week on behalf of death-row inmates Stacey Johnson, Jack Jones, Jason McGehee, Bruce Ward, Kenneth Williams and Marcel Williams. They allege the DOC did not fully comply with their FOI request for documents about the drugs.
Rosenzweig said Monday he likely would filed motions for clarifications of Kilgore’s ruling.
“If we end up with a ruling that we’re not pleased with, we’re going to appeal,” he said.
In a filing Friday, the attorney general’s office said the documents the inmates sought are exempt from the FOI under Act 139 of 2013.
Act 139 was enacted in response to a state Supreme Court ruling last year that the state’s previous lethal-injection law gave too much discretion to the DOC director, in violation of the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers.
The new law sets forth the types of drugs that the Department of Correction can use for lethal injections and states that the specific procedures for carrying out the death penalty “are not subject to disclosure under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.”
Saturday's edition of the Baxter Bulletin carried an AP report on the state attorney general's filing, "AG asks judge to dismiss Arkansas prisoners' lawsuit." It was written by Jeannie Nuss.
The attorney general’s office on Friday asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit from six death row inmates who want the court to order the Arkansas Department of Correction to turn over documents about lethal injection drugs.
Assistant Attorney General David Curran argued that the documents the inmates are seeking are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
Plus, Curran said, the inmates will almost certainly file another lawsuit, regardless of whether they get the documents they want.
Arkansas hasn’t executed a death row inmate since 2005 in part because of legal challenges.
The state Supreme Court last year deemed Arkansas’ 2009 lethal injection law unconstitutional, saying the Legislature had given the Department of Correction “unfettered discretion” to figure out the protocol and procedures for executions, including the chemicals to be used.
The Legislature this year enacted a new lethal injection law that spells out in greater detail the procedures that must be followed. The new law says the state must use a lethal dose of a barbiturate, but leaves it up to the Department of Correction to determine which drug. Correction officials say they haven’t figured out which drug to use yet.Arkansas doesn’t have any pending executions, but Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office recently took a step toward changing that. His office asked the Supreme Court to lift stays of execution for six of the state’s 37 death row inmates: Don Davis, Stacey Johnson, Jack Jones, Jason McGehee, Bruce Ward and Marcel Williams.
Earlier coverage of lethal injection issues from Arkansas begins at the link.