LAS VEGAS — The name of the physician picked to attend a state inmate's execution can remain secret, even from drug makers suing to ban the use of their products in the twice-postponed lethal injection, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled Monday.
In a twist, lawyers for three pharmaceutical companies who won the right to obtain the name last week — and had promised to sue the doctor once they got it — told a judge in Las Vegas that they welcomed Monday's high court order.
Attorney Todd Bice, representing drug firm Alvogen, told Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez the high court decision to protect the doctor's identity, coupled with a recent sworn statement from Nevada prisons chief James Dzurenda, bolsters companies' arguments that their business would be hurt if their drugs are used.
"We aren't going to get into the identity of the doctor. We do intend to argue strongly that having your name associated with capital punishment is harmful to reputations," Bice said. "The director testified that it would be ruinous of the doctor's reputation."
Gonzalez had ruled last week that drug companies could learn the name, but it would not be disclosed to the public.
The turnabout came on a day of boundary-setting decisions a day ahead of hearings on the drug companies' contentions that Nevada improperly obtained their drugs for a use the companies don't allow.
Gonzalez plans three days of testimony on a lawsuit by Alvogen that stopped the July execution of Scott Raymond Dozier. The case was later joined by Hikma Pharmaceuticals USA and Sandoz Inc.
State Supreme Court justices are watching developments before Gonzalez ahead of oral arguments next week on the state's bid to put Dozier's execution back on track for a yet-to-be-determined date in mid-November.
Fifteen states are siding with Nevada in the state Supreme Court fight against the drug companies, led by Oklahoma and including Nebraska, where an inmate was put to death last month.
They argue that similar drug company challenges amount to a tactic in a "guerrilla war against the death penalty" aiming to thwart the will of voters in the 31 states with capital punishment.
Nevada's trouble obtaining drugs from companies that don't want to be associated with capital punishment, its attempts to fashion a protocol using medications it found and the challenges it has faced in court has made Nevada a model of the trouble that death penalty states have had carrying out lethal injections.
Dozier's execution was postponed last November and again in July by legal challenges to the choice of drugs and the procedures developed for what would be Nevada's first execution since 2006.
The state's lethal injection protocol calls for using the sedative midazolam, made by Alvogen, followed by lethal doses of the powerful opioid fentanyl made by Hikma and then the muscle paralytic cisatracurium produced by Sandoz.
Nebraska used a similar sedative, diazepam, followed by fentanyl, cisatracurium and a fourth drug, potassium chloride, that is not part of Nevada's planned three-drug protocol.
Gonzalez did not immediately decide Monday on a new bid by the state to dismiss the drug makers' claims outright. She scheduled another hearing Oct. 2 on that question, saying she expects her eventual decision will also be appealed to the state high court.
Dozier, 47, was sentenced to die in 2007 for murder convictions in killings in Phoenix and Las Vegas. He has given up court challenges, insists he wants to die and says he doesn't care if it's painful.