Nebraska must turn over information to Arkansas death row inmates’ attorneys about where it acquired a drug that was used in a recent lethal injection.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit denied a motion Tuesday that would’ve given Nebraska a reprieve from carrying out the request, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.
Quinn Eaton, an attorney for the five Arkansas inmates, told the court that the information sought about where Nebraska’s prison system obtained fentanyl for an execution last August is central to a federal civil rights trial in Arkansas.
The inmates are challenging Arkansas’ use of midazolam, a lethal injection drug that they argue “has been linked to several executions in which inmates suffered prolonged, tortured deaths.”
The inmates’ attorneys first requested the information related to Nebraska’s execution of Carey Dean Moore in July. The 60-year-old convicted of double murder was the first inmate to be put to death in Nebraska since 1997.
Eaton said the documents related to Moore’s lethal injection drug are relevant to their argument that fentanyl, a painkiller, may be a more humane alternative to midazolam.
The attorneys need to show that there’s a known and available alternative to reduce the risk of severe pain.
They’re seeking communications involving the pharmacy’s decision to supply fentanyl for use in Nebraska’s executions, as well as information about how the prison system found and persuaded the supplier.
Nebraska has repeatedly refused to disclose the information, arguing that it’s confidential under state law.
The Arkansas attorneys sought a subpoena to compel Nebraska officials to turn over the documents last year, saying it could prevent at least 17 men from being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment during their executions.
Senior U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp ordered Nebraska to release the information last month.
Smith Camp said the prison didn’t have to name the pharmacy because the company has said it won’t sell the drugs again to any state for executions.
The state sought the motion to stay Smith Camp’s decision while it appealed the ruling.
After the federal appellate court denied the state’s motion this week, Smith Camp approved a protective order that limits who can see the “highly confidential” information.