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Death row inmates seek information on lethal injections

syringe-620Attorneys for two Arizona death row inmates are asking the Department of Corrections for information on who manufactured the drugs that will be used for their lethal injections.

The inmates, Joseph Wood III and Pete Rogovich, have each exhausted all of their appeals.

The April 30 letter came a day after Oklahoma prisoner Clayton Lockett died of a heart attack after being injected with Midazolam, a sedative the Arizona Department of Corrections plans to use in combination with the painkiller Hydromorphone in future executions.

Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan has yet to respond to the request for information. His spokesman, Doug Nick, said Ryan will “respond appropriately.”

The department has become secretive in how it obtains its execution drugs as suppliers have refused to sell to prisons in the United States.

Dale Baich, who heads the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Public Defender’s Office, said the prisoners’ next step will depend upon Ryan’s response, but that condemned prisoners have typically fought their legal battles all the way until the moment before execution.

Witnesses claim Lockett tried to sit up, writhed and convulsed on the gurney while he tried to speak. Executions are supposed to be carried out humanely and prisoners who were injected with drugs that are no longer available typically seemed to die peacefully.

The Attorney General’s Office, which represents the state in capital cases, has petitioned the Arizona Supreme Court for a death warrant for Wood, who was convicted of killing his girlfriend and her father in Tucson in 1989.

The earliest the state’s high court will consider the petition will be May 28.

Baich said the public has a right to know the source of the drugs.

“Transparency should be the first goal of a state agency that takes human life, but it is even more significant in a situation in which the state of Arizona intends to experiment in the same way that Ohio and Oklahoma have done,” Baich said.

Arizona officials announced March 24 they intend to go with the unproven, two-drug combination at higher doses than what was used in an Ohio execution in which the prisoner choked and snorted for 19 minutes before finally dying in January.

Attorney General Tom Horne said in March that transparency in the execution process has undermined it by drying up drug supplies in other states after public outcries against manufacturers.

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