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Federal judge: Alabama must reveal lethal injection details

(MGN Online)

The state of Alabama must reveal details of its lethal injection procedure, a federal judge has ruled, granting the request of news organizations to unseal court records in the wake of an aborted execution.

Posted: May 31, 2018 9:14 AM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The state of Alabama must reveal details of its lethal injection procedure, a federal judge has ruled, granting the request of news organizations to unseal court records in the wake of an aborted execution.

U.S. Judge Karon O. Bowdre ruled Wednesday that the public has a "common law right of access to the sealed records relating to Alabama's lethal injection protocol."

The judge said some information can remain secret in the interest of security, such as the names of low-level prison employees involved in executions. But she ordered the state to tell her by June 7 if there is identifying information in any of the records the court plans to make public. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall's office is reviewing the order, his spokesman said.

The Associated Press, The Montgomery Advertiser and the Alabama Media Group asked the court in March to unseal records in a lawsuit brought by death row inmate Doyle Lee Hamm, whose death was halted at the last minute in February when the execution team could not connect an intravenous line to his veins, which were damaged by lymphoma, hepatitis and past drug use.

"It may also help the public to understand how the same scenario might be repeated or avoided under the protocol as it currently stands," Bowdre wrote in a 19-page memorandum ordering the release of the information.

Alabama for years has released scant details about its execution process or where it obtains the drugs used, according to Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. Every state carrying out executions has kept some parts of the process secret, but they're increasingly being challenged by prisoners and media and public interest groups seeking access to records and judicial proceedings.

"Alabama is the most secretive state in the country when it comes to executions. It conceals its entire execution protocol and when there have been clearly botched executions_such as Doyle Hamm and Ronald Smith_prison officials have denied that there were any problems and deflected all other questions by claiming that the execution was carried out according to the protocol," Dunham wrote in an email.

Smith, another Alabama inmate, heaved and coughed for the first 13 minutes of a lethal injection as he was being put to death in 2016.

Hamm's attorneys had sought to block his execution date, arguing that lethal injection would be unconstitutionally cruel because of his illnesses. The state had assured Bowdre in earlier court filings that his execution could be carried out properly. On the night Hamm was prepared for death, prison officials ultimately called it off, saying they had difficulties obtaining "the appropriate venous access."

The state argued that the process should be kept confidential for security reasons, and that some information, such as the names and doses of drugs, have already been publicly released in court filings.

"It is the ADOC's policy that all documents associated with the execution of death row inmates are confidential," Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said in a court filing. "The ADOC has a strong interest in protecting the confidentiality of its execution protocol because the protocol contains security procedures relating not only to the execution itself, but procedures concerning the days leading up to a scheduled execution."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 68293

Reported Deaths: 1944
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5656118
DeSoto368031
Harrison253036
Madison244368
Rankin229235
Jackson228843
Jones191659
Forrest182056
Washington168942
Lee147941
Lauderdale141192
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Lamar122614
Oktibbeha112739
Bolivar111834
Warren109533
Lowndes108538
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Sunflower105425
Scott100320
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Pike93836
Holmes90049
Grenada84921
Yazoo83312
Lincoln83241
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Simpson80330
Monroe80155
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Wayne77421
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Tate73629
Marshall7019
Marion68420
Union64316
Adams62925
Winston62316
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George5895
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Newton54311
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Calhoun4209
Prentiss41710
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Smith40613
Clay39714
Hancock39514
Jasper3889
Itawamba37510
Tippah36713
Tunica3517
Clarke32626
Montgomery3265
Lawrence3228
Yalobusha31510
Humphreys29411
Quitman2701
Carroll26111
Greene25512
Perry2437
Amite2356
Webster23512
Kemper23414
Jefferson Davis2336
Wilkinson21113
Stone2055
Sharkey1995
Jefferson1957
Benton1431
Choctaw1354
Franklin1312
Issaquena262
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 99926

Reported Deaths: 1781
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13258244
Mobile10517207
Montgomery6835149
Madison544734
Tuscaloosa423076
Baldwin365125
Unassigned363064
Shelby330936
Marshall318937
Lee270047
Morgan241118
Etowah216232
DeKalb183013
Calhoun180717
Elmore173138
Walker153964
Houston141912
Russell13872
St. Clair135418
Limestone134913
Dallas133123
Franklin128820
Cullman122712
Colbert120716
Lauderdale118919
Autauga117421
Escambia108717
Talladega104814
Jackson10144
Tallapoosa86579
Chambers84438
Dale83525
Clarke82610
Blount8124
Chilton8097
Butler76736
Coffee7646
Covington73720
Pike7087
Marion58026
Barbour5765
Lowndes57324
Marengo56515
Hale47826
Bullock46611
Winston45711
Perry4454
Washington44312
Bibb4425
Wilcox43210
Monroe4215
Pickens4049
Randolph40310
Conecuh39310
Sumter36418
Lawrence3512
Macon33914
Crenshaw3265
Choctaw28712
Cherokee2758
Henry2643
Clay2635
Geneva2631
Greene25211
Lamar2292
Fayette2125
Cleburne1271
Coosa1033
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