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Idaho lethal injection trial wraps, judge to decide public interest

Fourth District Judge Lynn Norton heard closing arguments in the lawsuit between University of Idaho professor Aliza Cover and the Idaho Department of Correction on Monday. (CBS 2 file)

A judge will decide whether the public interest in knowing where Idaho has obtained its lethal injection drugs for executions is outweighed by what prison officials say is the risk that future drug sources will dry up.

Fourth District Judge Lynn Norton heard closing arguments in the lawsuit between University of Idaho professor Aliza Cover and the Idaho Department of Correction on Monday.

Much of the debate in the case has focused on whether releasing information about where Idaho obtained lethal chemicals used in the 2011 execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades and the 2012 execution of Richard Albert Leavitt would prompt vigorous protests by anti-death penalty advocates or cause other lethal chemical suppliers to refuse to sell to Idaho.

The state, which has the burden of proof in this civil case, argues publicly releasing the information would jeopardize the ability to carry out future executions by lethal injection, the only form of capital punishment that's legal in Idaho.

Attorneys for the state say that's because the dwindling number of companies now supplying the drugs would dry up in the face of anticipated public boycotts.

The ACLU, representing Prof. Cover, maintains this public records request (first made in 2017) is essentially a request for public reassurance that the law was carried out legally and humanely. The ACLU also claims the Department of Correction acted in bad faith and only made many documents available after a lawsuit was filed.

Norton said she will begin deliberating on the case on Feb. 13 and will issue a written ruling sometime later.

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