Lawsuit Resumes Over Arizona's Lethal Injection Drugs

By Alexandra Olgin
Published: Tuesday, January 12, 2016 - 6:32pm
Updated: Tuesday, January 12, 2016 - 8:40pm
Arizona Department of Corrections
A view from the viewing area outside the injection room in Florence, Arizona.

Litigation over Arizona’s lethal injection drugs is resuming. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2014, two months after a so called “botched” execution.   

The five Arizona death row inmates in the lawsuit have exhausted all their appeals and are awaiting execution warrants. As a stipulation of the lawsuit, the Department of Corrections can’t go forward with any executions until the matter has been settled in court. 

In a meeting in court Tuesday, lawyers for the Department of Corrections said its supply of the drug midazolam expires in May. Midazolam is one of the three drugs in the execution protocol the department outlined it had available in a court filing last November. 

The department wants this case resolved in the next four months. Attorney for the inmates, Mark Haddad, still has a lot of questions for the department before moving forward on an expedited time frame. 

“They haven’t told us how much they have,” he said. “They haven’t told us what efforts they’ve made to get either more midazolam or other drugs that could be used for lethal injection in an execution.”  

The Arizona Department of Corrections is also embroiled in a dispute with the Food and Drug Administration over the importation of other lethal injection drugs. The FDA stopped a shipment of sodium thiopental in August, citing it is an unapproved new drug and is misbranded. 

U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake said he wants to avoid what he calls "crisis litigation" in this case. In July 2014, Wake held an emergency hearing during the nearly two-hour execution because the inmate’s lawyers tried to halt the procedure and revive him.

Two other issues expected to be litigated in this case are media access to execution procedures and information and the department’s discretion to modify its lethal injection protocols.  

EDITOR'S NOTE: KJZZ is a member of the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona which is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.