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Lawyer sues Arkansas prison system over execution drug label

Posted September 8

— A Little Rock attorney has again sued the Arkansas Department of Corrections, arguing the agency needs to publicly disclose labeling materials for an execution drug.

Steven Shults is seeking labeling for the state's supply of midazolam, the first of three drugs used in Arkansas' lethal injection protocol, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported . Shults alleges the department is violating the state's Freedom of Information Act by refusing to disclose the information.

Shults' lawsuit comes three weeks after the state announced it had obtained a new supply of midazolam, a powerful sedative. Gov. Asa Hutchinson later scheduled an inmate for a Nov. 9 lethal injection, marking the state's first scheduled execution since it put four men to death in April. Those executions were the first in Arkansas since 2005.

Prison officials rejected Shults' request for the labeling in August, saying state law bars them from disclosing information about the maker or provider of drugs used in executions. Officials said releasing the information could identify the drug manufacturers involved because labeling materials are distinctive in their shape, size and wording.

The Associated Press used labels to identify one chemical manufacturer in 2015. Lawmakers imposed the secrecy requirements regarding the death penalty drugs after pharmaceutical manufacturers and sellers said they were being harassed for selling the drugs.

Shults wants to be sure prison officials are complying with state law, according to his lawyer.

Shults also sued the department in March to see the labeling for potassium chloride, another drug used in the execution process. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled in his favor, but the Arkansas Supreme Court put the ruling on hold as the state appeals.

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