LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas is asking a federal judge to quash a subpoena seeking detailed records related to the death of a man who was seen lurching and convulsing during his execution in April.
In a motion and supporting brief filed Friday, an attorney for the Arkansas State Crime Lab said the lab has received a subpoena from federal public defenders for records related to the April 27 execution by lethal injection of Kenneth Williams.
Witnesses to the execution reported that about three minutes after Williams was injected with the sedative midazolam, he coughed, convulsed and lurched on the execution gurney for about 10 seconds. The witnesses said they could hear Williams making sounds even though a microphone into which he gave his final statement had been turned off.
An autopsy report on Williams states that the cause of his death was lethal injection. Prison officials have said Williams had stopped moving and was unconscious by the time drugs were administered to stop his lungs and heart.
The public defenders’ subpoena seeks the autopsy report; any related handwritten notes, photographs, audio or video recordings or preliminary reports; any medical records provided to the medical examiner; a histology report; a toxicology report; a list of samples provided to the toxicology lab; a copy of the death certificate; a list of prescribed medications administered to Williams leading up to the execution; and the written protocol followed by the medical examiner.
Crime Lab attorney Doralee Chandler wrote in her motion that U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker should quash the subpoena because some of the requested items do not exist and those that do exist are not subject to disclosure except under certain circumstances.
Chandler said those circumstances include a prosecutor’s approval, which she said has been granted, and authorization under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which she said has not occurred.
HIPAA requires authorization from the administrator of the dead person’s estate before autopsy and toxicology records kept by the Crime Lab can be released, according to Chandler. There also is a $25 fee per report, she said.
“The ASCL should be not be subjected to a potential suit by the estate of Kenneth Williams for violation of privacy rights,” she wrote in her motion.