Death row inmates sue Arizona over lethal-injection drugs

The death chamber is seen through the steel bars from the viewing room at the federal penitentiary...

The death chamber is seen through the steel bars from the viewing room at the federal penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas in this September 29, 2010 handout. (REUTERS/Jenevieve Robbins/Texas Dept of Criminal Justice/Handout via Reuters)

Eric M. Johnson, Reuters

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

A convicted murderer and five other death row inmates sued Arizona on Thursday arguing the state's secrecy around lethal-injection drugs used in botched executions in Ohio and Oklahoma violates their constitutional rights.

Joseph Wood, a 55-year-old sentenced to die on July 23 for two murders in an auto-shop, and other prisoners argued in a complaint filed in an Arizona federal court that prison officials concealed information about their plans to use the sedative-painkiller combination midazolam and hydromorphone.

"The Arizona Department of Corrections has stonewalled requests for basic information about its lethal injection protocol and the drugs it plans to use to end Mr. Wood's life," his attorney, Dale Baich, said in a statement.

Attorneys in several U.S. states have argued that moves to keep hidden the identity and methods of lightly regulated pharmacies - to which they have turned to procure execution drugs in the face of sales bans - as well as details about drug purity and potency, is a violation of their clients' rights.

Ohio used midazolam and hydromorphone for the first time for an execution in January during which the condemned man, 53-year-old Dennis McGuire, was seen convulsing and gasping for breath.

The Arizona suit was filed a day after 21 death-row inmates sued prison officials in Oklahoma, alleging the use of midazolam is a violation of constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment, local media reported.

In Oklahoma, the April execution of Clayton Lockett, who suffered an apparent heart attack and died about 30 minutes after prison officials halted his execution, sparked an uproar among death penalty opponents.

The Arizona lawsuit names as defendants Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan, two state prison wardens, and several unnamed officials who participate in executions.


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