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Federal Judges Critical Of State Transparency Regarding New Lethal Injection Drug

Fresenius Kabi USA

A pair of federal judges called the state to task Wednesday for its lack of transparency regarding the drugs Florida uses for executions by lethal injection. 

At a hearing yesterday in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, attorneys for four death row inmates challenged the state’s substitution of one of the drugs in Florida’s three-drug execution protocol.

The attorneys asked to go ahead with a lawsuit claiming the use of midazolam hydrochloride is unconstitutional because it could cause unnecessary suffering.

The drug was used for the first time in the state last month for the execution of convicted murderer and rapist William Happ.

Judges Marcia Howard and Timothy Corrigan took issue with the plaintiffs’ lack of evidence and they gave their attorney, Maria de Liberato, 60 days to find an expert and refile the challenge.     

De Liberato argued that it’s hard to make a case without the information they need from the state.

"They’ve consistently refused to provide any transparency whatsoever in the choosing of the drugs and where they’re getting them from and why they continue to use a three-drug protocol,” she said.

The judges noted the alleged lack of transparency and they criticized the state for refusing all public records requests for information about the drug.

Javan Frinks, campaign coordinator for advocacy group Justice for Jacksonville, said he was impressed with the way the two judges handled the issue.
“They did not dismiss on face value that the new drug that’s being used is perfectly safe and acceptable and they have given the plaintiffs’ attorneys an opportunity to go back and kindof improve their argument,” he said.

The next execution in Florida is set for November 12. The inmate in that case, Darius Kimbrough, is not one of the plaintiffs challenging the legality of the lethal injection protocol.

You can follow Cyd on Twitter @cydwjctnews.

Cyd Hoskinson began working at WJCT on Valentine’s Day 2011.