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VOL. 38 | NO. 32 | Friday, August 08, 2014

Court considers if executioners can be named

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NASHVILLE (AP) - A Tennessee appeals court is considering whether 10 death row inmates have the right to know about the drugs that will be used in their executions and whether their lawyers can get the names of the people who will kill them.

The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1lPRSe6 ) reports that the state Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Monday in the lawsuit brought by the inmates. They sued after the legislature passed a law that keeps details about lethal injection secret.

Lawyers for the state argued that a Nashville judge overstepped her authority when she ordered officials to turn over the names of the execution team to the attorneys for the condemned prisoners. The lower court ruled the names must be released but said neither the public nor the inmates could have them.

"We are here today because for the first time in the history of lethal injection in the state of Tennessee a court has o rdered the state to disclose the identities of those people who are involved in the lethal injection process," said Special Assistant Attorney General Kyle Hixson said. "This is an abuse of discretion."

Assistant federal public defender Stephen Kissinger, who represents some of the inmates, argued that there's no "executioner's privilege" that would stop the state from releasing the identities of the execution team in a court case because they would be sealed.

He said a ruling that would allow the state to keep such information secret would have far-reaching implications.

"This isn't a matter of simply hiding the identity of the executioner," he said. "This is a matter of hiding the identity of the manufacturer of the ax or the manufacturer of the robe."

Tennessee is one of several states where inmates have challenged the secrecy surrounding executions in court.

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