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Suit accuses Arizona of violating public records law

Federal public defenders have accused the Arizona Corrections Department of violating the state public records law by withholding requested records on the acquisition of execution drugs.

Lawyers representing Donald Beaty, who is scheduled to be executed Wednesday, need the records “in order to pursue appropriate remedies” to the “potentially unlawful behavior” of the department, according to a motion that accompanied the lawsuit.

The public defenders had asked for quick consideration of the lawsuit filed Thursday, but a judge on Friday denied that motion without comment.

Beaty’s attorneys then filed a new appeal Friday, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block his execution.

Daniel Barr, a lawyer representing the defender office, said it wasn’t immediately clear what would happen next in the records lawsuit.

The office’s suit asked that the department be ordered to produce the requested records, which include communications with federal agencies and a customs broker. The defender’s office, which represents death row inmates, contends that Arizona may have illegally imported at least one execution drug.

Corrections department spokesman Barrett Marson said he was not familiar with the suit filed and could not immediately comment.

State officials have said previously they have acted legally in obtaining and using execution drugs.

Courts have permitted two Arizona executions since October despite defense lawyers’ arguments that the state’s supply of execution drugs may not work properly.

Beaty was convicted in the 1984 rape and murder of 13-year-old Christy Ann Fornoff, a case that riveted the Phoenix area.

The girl was killed while she was collecting on her newspaper route at an apartment complex where Beaty lived and worked.

The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday refused to block Beaty’s scheduled execution as it denied his appeal over claims of ineffective representation in his sentencing and in later proceedings.

Beaty’s attorneys renewed that argument Friday in the appeal filed with the federal high court. It claimed that Beaty was denied effective representation at key points in his case.

The appeal argued that Beaty had the constitutional right to effective representation in post-conviction proceedings in trial court.

Mitigation evidence that Beaty suffers from a brain impairment and that the inmate was abused as a child should have been presented during sentencing, the appeal said. It blamed lapses by an early post-trial defense attorney whose actions “effectively sealed Beaty’s fate.”

Assistant Attorney General John Presley Todd declined to comment on the appeal, except to say the state will file opposition papers.

The state’s top death penalty prosecutor, Kent Cattani, previously said creating a new constitutional right to effective representation in trial court proceedings after convictions and sentencings would open the door to “an unending cycle of claims of ineffective assistance.”

New lawyers already represent inmates on appeal, Cattani said. “You have to cut it off at some point.”

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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