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ACLU Demands Info on California Executions

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (CN) - The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is withholding public records about its lethal injection practices and protocols, the American Civil Liberties Union claims in court.

The ACLU's Northern California chapter sued the department of prisons in Marin County Court, claiming it produced only a small number of documents, though "it is clear that a substantial number of responsive and non-privileged documents exist and have not been produced." That violates the California Public Records Act, the ACLU says in its Nov. 18 lawsuit.

The department released its proposed lethal injection regulations on Nov. 6, and the public comment period for the regulations will close on Jan. 22 next year.

The ACLU says the records it requested will help it participate in the public comment process, and "shed light on important issues such as CDCR's choice of drugs to include in the proposed regulations, the source of the drugs, amount of the drugs to be administered, mechanisms to ensure the quality, sterility and potency of the drugs, the method of administration, and the adequacy of CDCR's training protocols."

The ACLU submitted a public records request on Aug. 14, seeking information on lethal injection drugs, procedures and equipment, and the qualifications and training of execution teams.

In response, the CDCR produced 30 pages related to training materials and 10 pages related to lethal injection drugs. It produced no documents related to drugs in its possession, communications with pharmaceutical companies, communications with other states, documents pertaining to "one-drug protocol," and documents with federal agencies, according to the complaint.

The ACLU says it sent a follow-up request on Oct. 29, to which the department of prisons has not responded.

Linda Lye, an ACLU staff attorney, said in an email that "the CDCR appears to be engaging in the same secretive behavior as it did in 2010, when the ACLU previously had to sue to obtain information about the agency's effort to acquire drugs for use in executions by lethal injection."

"It is very disappointing that we, once again, are forced to go to court to compel the CDCR to follow California's Public Records Act on an important, life-or-death issue like lethal injection," Lye said.

The CDCR said in an email that it does not comment on pending litigation.

Information on lethal injection drugs and protocols, or lack of it, has become headline news since a series of botched executions, particularly grisly ones in Missouri and Oklahoma.

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