Judge denies inmates access to execution documents


LITTLE ROCK — A judge Monday turned down a request by a group of death-row inmate for access to information about the drugs the state plans to use to execute them.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Collins Kilgore ruled that the information sought by six condemned killers was exempt from public disclosure under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act under provisions of a law passed just this year setting out procedures for the Department of Correction to carry out lethal injections.

Attorney Jeff Rosenzweig filed the suit in Pulaski County Circuit Court last week on behalf of death-row inmates Stacey Johnson, Jack Jones, Jason McGehee, Bruce Ward, Kenneth Williams and Marcel Williams. They allege the DOC did not fully comply with their FOI request for documents about the drugs.

Rosenzweig said Monday he likely would filed motions for clarifications of Kilgore’s ruling.

“If we end up with a ruling that we’re not pleased with, we’re going to appeal,” he said.

In a filing Friday, the attorney general’s office said the documents the inmates sought are exempt from the FOI under Act 139 of 2013.

Act 139 was enacted in response to a state Supreme Court ruling last year that the state’s previous lethal-injection law gave too much discretion to the DOC director, in violation of the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers.

The new law sets forth the types of drugs that the Department of Correction can use for lethal injections and states that the specific procedures for carrying out the death penalty “are not subject to disclosure under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.”

Six inmates who have been under stays of execution have asked the high court not to lift the stays, arguing that the constitutionality of Act 139 is in question. The attorney general’s office has asked the state high court for an expedited review of the constitutionality of Act 139 and said it had no objection to the stays remaining in place until the court has ruled on the act.