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Execution of Ariz. inmate is postponed

PHOENIX — A federal appeals court has granted an Arizona death row inmate’s request to postpone his execution until prison officials reveal details on the two-drug combination that will be used to put him to death.

The preliminary injunction granted by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower federal court. It was issued Saturday, four days before the scheduled execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood.

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Without weighing in on the ‘‘ultimate merits’’ of Wood’s case, the court wrote: ‘‘Wood has presented serious questions going to the merits of his claim, and that the balance of hardships tips sharply in his favor.’’

Wood’s lawyers argued prison officials violated their client’s First Amendment rights by refusing to provide the detailed information, such as the makers of the drugs and how the state developed its method for lethal injections.

‘‘Today the court has made a well-reasoned ruling affirming the core First Amendment principles regarding the public’s right to know, which aid all parts of our democratic government,’’ Wood’s lawyer Dale Baich said in a statement.

Attorneys for the state argued there was no First Amendment right to the information Wood is seeking.

Representatives from the attorney general’s office said they had not yet seen the decision, but based on the severity of Wood’s crime they intended to appeal. Spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said the state would decide Monday how to proceed.

The arguments by Wood’s attorneys are an example of a new legal tactic in death penalty cases, which emerged as states face problems getting supplies of lethal-injection drugs.

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