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Arizona wants source of lethal injection drugs kept confidential

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

The office of Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne is involved in a lawsuit to try and conceal the source of drugs used in lethal injections.

The suit was initiated by the office of the federal public defender in Arizona.

Two inmates, Edward Schad and Robert Jones, were executed within two weeks of each other. Assistant Federal Public Defender Dale Baich successfully argued that the source of the lethal pentobarbital should be made available.

"Over the last three years, the state has really made great efforts to try and keep that information from us," said Baich.

Federal Judge Roslyn Silver agreed, and the information was made public shortly before the execution of Schad.

It was revealed by Baich's office that the expiration date for the Department of Corrections stock of pentobarbital expires at the end of November.

The Department of Corrections is not believed to have any other drugs sufficient to carry out an execution order at this point.

Many companies refuse to distribute pentobarbital if it is to be used as a drug to carry out capital punishment. Because of that, Arizona and other states conceal the identity of the manufacturer, to shield them from potential backlash from death penalty opponents.

Arizona does have a so-called "executioner confidentiality" statute that protects the identity of people involved in the execution process. The legal issue, however, is that the statute specifically mentions people, not companies.

"It's important for the state to be transparent when it carries out the ultimate punishment," said Baich, "so that we can be sure that the drug to be used is safe and will be effective."

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections declined to comment on the lawsuit.

However, when asked about the lack of available supply of pentobarbital to carry out future executions, spokesman Doug Nick said, "We will deal with that situation when it presents itself. There's no need to be concerned until the next death warrant is issued."

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