LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas’ highest court on Wednesday halted a judge’s order requiring officials to reveal more details about one of the drugs the state plans to use in a November execution.
The Arkansas Supreme Court issued an emergency stay of a Pulaski County judge’s order requiring the state to release the labels and package inserts for its supply of midazolam, one of three drugs Arkansas uses in its lethal injection process. State law keeps the supplier of the drugs secret, but Pulaski County Judge Mackie Pierce last week said that confidentiality didn’t extend to manufacturers of the drugs. Pierce had given the state until late Thursday afternoon to release the information.
The court did not elaborate on its reason for issuing the stay in its one-page order and said Chief Justice Dan Kemp voted to deny the stay.
Attorney Steven Shults sued over the midazolam information after winning a similar case concerning information about potassium chloride, another drug the state uses in executions. That order was also stayed and is being appealed.
Alec Gaines, an attorney for Shults, said he hoped the court would grant their request to expedite the state’s appeal so it’s considered before the scheduled November execution of Jack Greene.
“Obviously we think there’s a public interest the Legislature recognized when they passed this act and that’s what we’re interested in,” Gaines said.
The Associated Press has previously used the labels to identify drugmakers whose products would be used in executions. Pharmaceutical companies have objected to the use of their products in executions, and another case is pending before the state Supreme Court over a medical supply company’s attempt to prevent Arkansas from using its supply of vecuronium bromide, another execution drug. The company, McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc., claims Arkansas misleadingly obtained the drug.
Arkansas scheduled eight executions and carried out four in April before its previous supply of midazolam expired. They were the state’s first executions after a nearly 12-year delay caused, in part, by drug manufacturers saying they didn’t want their life-saving products used to take inmates’ lives. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson last month scheduled a Nov. 9 execution for Greene after officials said they had obtained enough midazolam to carry out two executions. Documents released by the state show it paid $250 in cash for the latest supply of midazolam.
Greene was convicted of killing Sidney Jethro Burnett in 1991 after Burnett and his wife accused Greene of arson. Greene’s attorneys contend that he is severely mentally ill.
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