The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona declined to issue an injunction in a civil rights action alleging that the secrecy surrounding Arizona’s lethal injection protocol violates Joseph Wood’s First Amendment rights. The court’s order is attached.
Below is a statement from Dale Baich, attorney for Joseph Wood, who is scheduled for execution on July 23, 2014:
“Every citizen, including death row prisoners, has First Amendment rights. By deliberately concealing necessary information from Mr. Wood, the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) is violating the public’s First Amendment right to be informed about the manner in which the State plans to carry out the most serious penalty available in the criminal justice system. In a climate of secrecy, ADC is poised to use a risky, experimental combination of drugs to execute Mr. Wood.
“ADC’s experimental drug protocol – midazolam combined with hydromorphone – has been used only once before in the United States: during the lengthy, problematic execution of Dennis McGuire in Ohio last January. On appeal, we will ask the Ninth Circuit to order Arizona to comply with the First Amendment and disclose information about its execution process before it conducts human experimentation on Mr.Wood.”
"Arizona man loses bid to delay execution until makers of lethal injection drugs are revealed," is the AP report filed by Jacques Billeaud, via the Mohave Daily News.
A federal judge on Thursday denied an Arizona death-row inmate's request to postpone his July 23 execution until officials reveal details about the two-drug combination that will be used to put him to death.
U.S. District Judge Neil Wake rejected Joseph Rudolph Wood's argument that his First Amendment rights were violated by the state's refusal to provide the information, such as the makers of the drugs and how the state developed its method for lethal injections.
"The court concludes that the First Amendment does not provide a right to access to the specific information Wood seeks," Wake wrote in his 15-page ruling.
Wood's lawyers said prison officials violated their client's First Amendment rights by refusing to provide the detailed information. Attorneys for the state argued there was no First Amendment right to the information Wood sought.
Today's Los Angeles Times reports, "Federal judge refuses to stay execution of Arizona death row inmate," by Maya Srikrishnan.
The state argued that neither Wood nor the public had a 1st Amendment right to obtain the information sought.
The judge found that information already released to Wood about his execution — including the type of drug, the dosage and the expiration dates — was "sufficient for an 'informed public debate'" over concerns about the drugs.
Wood sought more detailed information on his execution process, including the drug manufacturer and sources, information about the qualifications and certifications of personnel on his execution team, and documents detailing how the state developed its lethal-injection drug protocol.
Since 2011, Arizona has been using pentobarbital for executions, but the state sent Wood’s lawyer a letter in April saying it was using a new combination because it can no longer procure pentobarbital, according to the June complaint.
In October, another federal judge ordered Arizona prison officials to disclose information on the drugs that would be used in two executions, saying the prisoners had a 1st Amendment right to such information. The information was released and both inmates were executed shortly after.
Earlier coverage of the Arizona lethal injection challenge begins at the link.