LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – An Arkansas judge has struck down a portion of the state's law that keeps secret details about the drugs used in executions, saying Thursday that drug suppliers do not have a constitutional right to be free from criticism.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen sided with death row inmates who challenged a law passed by lawmakers this year that prevents disclosure about the drugs that are used in executions. The judge also ordered the state to disclose drug details by noon Friday.
"It is common knowledge that capital punishment is not universally popular," Griffen wrote. "That reality is not a legitimate reason to shield the entities that manufacture, supply, distribute, and sell lethal injection drugs from public knowledge."
A spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge had no immediate comment, saying the office was still reviewing the order.
Under the state's new execution secrecy law, the Department of Correction has withheld the manufacturer and distributor of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride obtained last year, as well as other information.
The inmates had argued that the state's secrecy law is unconstitutional and they want information on the drugs' makers and suppliers to determine whether they could lead to cruel and unusual punishment. They also argued the secrecy law violates a settlement in an earlier lawsuit that guaranteed inmates would be given the information. The state has said the agreement is not a binding contract.
Griffen agreed with the inmates on both counts and noted that Arkansas has a law outlining humane euthanization practices for animals.
"The court rejects the notion that domestic pets and livestock in Arkansas have the right to die free of unjustifiable or prolonged pain, but that the constitutional guarantee against 'cruel or unusual punishment' found in the Arkansas Constitution allows people who commit murders to be put to death as if they have no entitlement to such right," he wrote.
Arkansas last executed an inmate in 2005.