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Settlement In Arizona Death Penalty Lawsuit Now Official

A settlement in the lawsuit against Arizona’s death penalty has cleared the way for the state to resume executions of death-row prisoners.

Arizona has not executed a prisoner since 2014. State officials did not respond to a request for comment. A lawyer for the state recently said in court that Arizona does not have execution drugs, and it has no intention of seeking a death warrant.

The settlement reins in the state’s ability to change the execution procedure on the fly. For example, the state will no longer use a paralytic drug in lethal injections, which the plaintiffs said hides signs of consciousness and suffering.

The state has agreed to changes that will make executions safer, said Dale Baich, assistant federal public defender representing the plaintiffs.

“We’re confident that (the state) took appropriate steps to decrease the risk that prisoners will be tortured to death in the future,” Baich said.

But the settlement doesn’t mean the case is entirely over, as plaintiffs plan to appeal a First Amendment claim dismissed last year.

The goal of the appeal is to get the state to be more transparent about drugs used in lethal injections, Baich said.

“What we’re still interested in is the source of the drugs that are used to carry out executions,” Baich said. 

The court has to enter a final judgement before the appeal can be filed, Baich said. But it’s unclear exactly when it will happen.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.