State Corrections officials have been ordered to turn over documents on how they conduct executions.
The records are being sought by a public defender for Ron Lafferty, who was condemned to death for the grisly 1984 slayings of his sister-in-law and infant niece over a religious revelation.
The state Records Committee told the Department of Corrections to turn over certain records earlier this month. A state attorney says she might appeal the decision because of the sensitivity of executions.
The documents cover a number of practices, from the way the state picks executioners to debriefing papers afterward, and procedures for lethal injection. The state doesn't have to release training manuals or executioners' personnel files.
The release of documents could bring security risks, said Tom Patterson, executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections. "Certainly a death row inmate has nothing to lose, so we have to plan for the worst," he said.
Any release of executioners' identities could amount to a death warrant, said Sharel Reber, assistant attorney general. Condemned inmates have been known to threaten to "take out an officer before they go down," she said.
In its 3-2 decision, however, the records panel ruled the state could delete security secrets and the names of any participants to an execution. The participants usually are lawmen from the county where the crime took place.
Ken Murray, Lafferty's federal defender, said he was trying to hold government accountable for executions.