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Judge: Execution Drug Sources Can Be Kept Secret by Arizona

Arizona does not have to reveal who provides its execution drugs, a judge ruled Thursday in a lawsuit arguing that the information would help the public determine whether the death penalty is carried out humanely and promote confidence in the criminal justice system.

Arizona does not have to reveal who provides its execution drugs, a judge ruled Thursday in a lawsuit arguing that the information would help the public determine whether the death penalty is carried out humanely and promote confidence in the criminal justice system.

The decision marked a defeat for news organizations, including The Associated Press, that sued to get the information released. U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ruled that the media outlets didn’t show they had a First Amendment right to knowing the suppliers of lethal injection drugs.

The judge said the First Amendment protects the right of people to argue about the death penalty, but it doesn’t require Arizona to reveal “protected information to the detriment of the state’s ability to carry out its constitutional, lawfully imposed criminal punishments.”

The lawsuit followed the 2014 execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood, who was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over nearly two hours in what his attorney called a botched execution.

Like other states, Arizona is struggling to buy execution drugs after U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections.

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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