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Federal appeals court postpones execution over drug secrecy

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Saturday postponed [opinion, PDF] an Arizona death row inmate's execution until prison officials reveal details on the two-drug combination that will be used for the lethal injection. Joseph Wood's attorneys argued [AP report] that their client's First Amendment rights were violated by the prison officials withholding detailed information on the drugs used for his lethal injection. Wood requested the information following recent procedural issues with legal injections within the US. It is reported that Arizona prison officials will look to use drug combinations that differ from the ones used in previous botched lethal injections.

Use of the death penalty [JURIST backgrounder] has been a controversial issue throughout the US and internationally. In May the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] urged the US to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty following a botched execution [JURIST reports] performed in Oklahoma the previous week. In April the Supreme Court of Oklahoma [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that inmates' constitutional rights were not violated by keeping the sources of lethal injection drugs secret. Earlier that month a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri [official website] allowed the continuation [JURIST report] of a lawsuit challenging a bill that would conceal the identities of individuals involved in the administration of the death penalty. A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma [official website] issued a temporary restraining order [JURIST report] in February, enjoining a pharmacy from providing a lethal injection drug to the Missouri Department of Corrections [official website]. In June 2013 North Carolina repealed a law [JURIST report] allowing minority inmates on death row to seek a reduced sentence.

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