State Supreme Court halts release of execution drug information | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

State Supreme Court halts release of execution drug information

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 2:40 PM

The Arkansas Supreme Court has again blocked a lower court order in a Freedom of Information Act case seeking product labels for drugs used by the state to put people to death.

Steve Shults, a Little Rock lawyer, has now twice won FOI suits in circuit court for access to labels for killing drugs — potassium chloride and subsequently midazolam — and twice had the Supreme Court stay orders to release labels while the state appeals the lower court decisions. The stays, it's safe to say, provide some suggestion of the leanings on the court on the ultimate issue.

Different judges have found that the legislature — in attempting to put a shroud of secrecy over executions — failed to enact specific language about drug labels. These labels can be used, the state argued, to identify those who provided the drugs. They contend publicity about this can make it hard to obtain killing drugs.

No executions are currently scheduled. Correction: An execution is scheduled in November. New supplies of drugs were needed to resume executions because previous supplies had expired.

The Supreme Court's ruling came in a brief unsigned order.  It said Chief Justice John Dan Kemp would have denied Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's request for a stay of the lower court order. Without the stay, the state would have had to turn over product information inserted in drug packets by tomorrow.

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