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Georgia Supreme Court to rule on challenge to execution drug secrecy law

The Supreme Court of Georgia [official website] heard arguments on Monday regarding the constitutionality of a law allowing the state to withhold the identities of the manufacturers of Georgia's lethal injection drugs. Last May, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal [official website] signed into law HB 122 [PDF], which included a provision mandating that "the identifying information of any person or entity that manufactures, supplies, compounds, or prescribes the drugs, medical supplies, or medical equipment utilized in the execution of a death sentence" be classified as a confidential state secret. Death row inmate Warren Lee Hill Jr. [JURIST news archive] alleges [Atlanta Journal-Constitution report] that the law prevents inmates from ascertaining whether the drugs to be used for an execution could cause impermissible suffering and harm. In granting Hill's emergency injunction against his execution, the Superior Court of Fulton County [official website] found that Hill would likely succeed [order, PDF] in a challenge to the law's constitutionality. The Supreme Court of Georgia will deliver a ruling on whether the Fulton County judge will be permitted to actually adjudicate the constitutionality of the law in four to six months.

There is a shortage of commonly used lethal injection drugs in the US, forcing a number of states to modify their execution drug protocols. Last week a federal judge in Louisiana scheduled [JURIST report] a trial to review the constitutionality of the state's new execution protocol, which delayed the prisoner's execution for 90 days. In January the US Supreme Court stayed [JURIST report] the execution of a Missouri death row inmate because the state refused to release the name of the pharmaceutical to be used in the execution, but the stay was later lifted and the execution carried out. This same two-drug mixture at question in Louisiana was used last month in the execution of an Ohio convict, which reportedly caused him to suffer visible pain; his children have filed a suit in federal court over the prolonged execution [JURIST reports].

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