LITTLE ROCK — An Arkansas judge struck down a portion of the state's execution law that keeps secret the source of drugs it uses, 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, including the makers and suppliers, 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."
Judd Deere, a spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said late Thursday that the office had filed notice of appeal with the state Supreme Court. Rutledge also asked for an immediate stay of Griffen's order.
"Attorney General Rutledge has a duty to defend the State's lethal injection statute and disagrees with Judge Griffen's order," Deere wrote in an emailed statement.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the judge's decision was "troubling" because the drug suppliers were assured confidentiality, "so a sale was accomplished based upon that law and that promise of confidentiality."
"There's already a stay of the executions at issue by the court and so I can't see any necessity for the immediate disclosure of that information," he said.
See Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.