Death Penalty

Execution can't go forward until prisoner receives information on death drugs, 9th Circuit says


A federal appeals court has issued an injunction staying the execution of a convicted double murderer until he receives information about the drugs that will be used to kill him.

Lawyers for Arizona death-row inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood had argued he had a First Amendment right to the information. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the injunction on Saturday in a 2-1 opinion (PDF). “Although we do not reach the ultimate merits of the case,” the majority wrote, “we conclude that Wood has presented serious questions going to the merits of his claim.”

The New York Times, MSNBC, USA Today and KPHO covered the opinion.

The ruling was the first by a federal appeals court to find that an inmate has a right to information about execution drugs, according to an expert who spoke with the Times.

Wood was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday for killing his former girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father in 1989.

The Arizona Attorney General’s office told Wood’s lawyer that it planned to use midazolam and hydromorphone in the execution. The Federal Public Defender’s Habeas Unit in Arizona sought information about the sources of the drugs and their manufacturers, the credentials of the executioners who would use them, and the development of the state’s drug protocol.

Arizona is seeking en banc review in this petition for rehearing (PDF).

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