The Arkansas attorney general's office has asked the state Supreme Court to hold oral arguments in its appeal of a lower court's ruling not to dismiss death-row inmates' constitutional challenge to the state's execution secrecy law



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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Attorneys for the Arkansas attorney general's office has asked the state Supreme Court to hold oral arguments in the state's appeal of a lower court's ruling not to dismiss a constitutional challenge to an execution secrecy law.

The high court previously stayed eight scheduled executions until the challenge, which was filed by a handful of death row inmates, could be heard.

In December, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen struck down a portion of the state's execution law that keeps secret the source of its drugs, saying that drug suppliers do not have a constitutional right to be free from criticism.

Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Merritt wrote in the state's almost 200-page brief, filed Thursday, that the high court should reverse Griffen's decision not to dismiss the entire lawsuit or reverse the summary judgment and remand it back to the court with instructions to rule in the state's favor.

"The Prisoners ... failed to plead sufficient facts to adduce evidence to prove any of their claims. The State, by contrast, offered undisputed evidence proving that (the execution law) is constitutional" she wrote.

Jeff Rosenzweig, an attorney for the inmates, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Merritt also wrote that an order from Griffen to disclose the manufacturer and seller of the execution drugs is moot because the lawsuit should be dismissed and the constitutional challenge to the secrecy portion of the law was not proven. That order was stayed by the Arkansas Supreme Court due to the appeal.

The inmates have alleged that the secrecy law is unconstitutional because it could lead to cruel and unusual punishment and violates a settlement in an earlier lawsuit that guaranteed inmates would be given the drug information. The state has said the agreement is not a binding contract because the original lawsuit has been fully resolved and a new execution protocol is now in place.

A spokesman for the attorney general's office said it could be early April before the high court decides to grant the request for oral arguments.

The state has asked that previous hearings be expedited because one of the execution drugs used in the three-drug protocol expires in June. Merritt wrote that the company that sold the drugs to the state has already said it will not provide more.

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