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Court Tells State To Provide Lethal Injection Documents

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
California Department of Corrections
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Rejecting arguments that the records must be kept secret, a federal magistrate has ordered the Florida Department of Corrections to give a decade's worth of documents about drugs used in the state's lethal-injection procedure to lawyers representing seven Arizona Death Row inmates.
Lawyers for the Arizona inmates and the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona in June filed a subpoena seeking years of records related to Florida's three-drug lethal injection protocol, including the types of drugs purchased, the strengths and amounts of the drugs, the expiration dates of the drugs and the names of suppliers.

The lawyers sought and received similar information from other states, including Georgia, Missouri and Texas, according to court records.

The Florida Department of Corrections refused to release the documents, arguing that the information is exempt under the state's broad open-records law and that the Arizona lawyers were on a "fishing expedition."

But on Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Stampelos gave the corrections agency 21 days to provide the documents, outlining specifically how the records can be redacted to comply with state law.

The Department of Corrections is "reviewing the request and will comply with the court order," agency spokeswoman Michelle Glady said in an email Thursday.

The request for the records came in an Arizona death-penalty challenge focused on whether the use of midazolam, the first step in a three-drug lethal injection cocktail, violates Eighth Amendment protections against cruel or unusual punishment.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that, in those types of cases, prisoners must provide an available alternative to the method of execution being challenged. Gathering the information from the other states is a "core component" to the inmates' claim that Arizona's lethal-injection process is unconstitutional, the Arizona lawyers argued.

Lawyer Joshua Anderson, who represents the Arizona plaintiffs, issued a statement Thursday describing Stampelos' decision as a “well-reasoned opinion.”

Arizona's death penalty has been on hold for two years following the botched 2014 execution of inmate Joseph Wood, who died nearly two hours after the lethal-injection procedure was started.