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Court Orders Disclosure of Witness' Information Regarding Lethal Injection Executions in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania death row prisoner Michael Travaglia appealed the Department of Corrections' (DOC) 1996 refusal to disclose to his attorney, Mark Lesco, various documents regarding lethal injection procedures and the selection process and identities of witnesses to executions. The court ordered access to witness information but affirmed nondisclosure related to lethal injection procedures.

Lesco's requests by letter in 1995 on behalf of Travaglia were denied. The DOC claimed that the letters were an attempt to gain access to information not otherwise subject to discovery in the ongoing litigation between Travaglia and the DOC's Commissioner. The DOC also denied having any of the requested photographs or copies of postmortem records that were filed regarding the first two prisoners' executions in the state under the 1990 enactment of the lethal injection method for executions.

Travaglia petitioned for review of the DOC's denial, arguing constitutional violations under sections two and three of the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act (Act). The DOC claimed that they never denied any request made "by Travaglia" and so he was not aggrieved and not a party to the denial, and filed a motion to quash the petition.

The Second Division for the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania denied the motion to quash and acknowledged that the DOC's actions in the matter demonstrated "an attitude that is not in keeping with the spirit of the Act." See: Travaglia v. Department of Corrections, 699 A.2d 1317 (Pa. Commw. 1997), appeal denied.

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Related legal case

Travaglia v. Department of Corrections