Georgia high court rules source of execution drugs can remain secret

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Georgia ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday that a state law that makes the identity of an execution drug supplier a "confidential state secret" is constitutional. In a 5-2 decision, the court reversed [AP report] a lower court ruling that granted a stay of execution to death row inmate Warren Lee Hill [JURIST news archive]. Hill's lawyer said he plans to ask for reconsideration and will petition the US Supreme Court [official website] if the request is denied. Writing for the majority opinion, Justice P. Harris Hines wrote that keeping secret the identity of entities involved can shield them from harassment. Moreover, "Georgia's execution process is likely made more timely and orderly by the execution-participant confidentiality statute and, furthermore, that significant personal interests are also protected by it." Justice Robert Benham, writing for the dissent, argued that keeping source of execution drugs confidential can lead to more botched executions, such as that of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett [JURIST report].

The shortage of commonly used lethal injection drugs in the US has forced a number of states to modify their execution drug protocols, increasing the debate and controversy surrounding the death penalty. Earlier this month the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals [official website] approved [JURIST report] a six-month stay of execution for a current death row inmate while an investigation is conducted into issues with Lockett's lethal injection. In April the Supreme Court of Oklahoma [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that two inmates' constitutional rights were not violated by keeping sources of lethal injection drugs secret. In February the Supreme Court of Georgia heard arguments [JURIST report] regarding the constitutionality of the law allowing the state to withhold the identities of the manufacturers of Georgia's lethal injection drugs.

 

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