With the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling this past week declaring the state’s lethal injection procedures as constitutional, executions in Arkansas are set to move forward after a decade of being on hold.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, which airs at 6:06 on KUAR Monday evening, said there are 32 inmates currently on Death Row, with 8 inmates having exhausted all of their appeals. Still, she warns, carrying out the death penalty won’t be immediate.
“This is not something that’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks. I know there’s quite a bit of angst and talk about that because of the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Rutledge, whose office works with the governor’s administration to coordinate state executions. She noted that the Department of Corrections must first obtain the drugs needed in order to carry out lethal injections. “Once they do that, we’ll be able to send the names to the governor,” Rutledge said.
Prison systems around the country have had difficulty obtaining drugs for lethal injections as manufacturers have either refused to sell the drugs for execution purposes or they have decided against it to avoid the publicity and protests that accompany the sales. Even for those inmates whose appeals are exhausted, Rutledge said she still expects new rounds of lawsuits to occur.
“I am certain there will be litigation because of the seriousness of the issue at hand,” she said. Rutledge also said she’s working with the state legislature to find ways to strengthen Arkansas’ death penalty law. “Some of the things that we’re looking at are confidentiality of companies that provide the drugs necessary to carry out a lethal injection.
Because of so many protests and public scrutiny that comes to those companies, many states have gone this direction in order to protect the private businesses,” she said.
Rutledge has also been fulfilling a campaign promise to “stand up” to the federal government on a number of issues she considers overreaching. Her office has joined a lawsuit to push back on the EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan, which would cut existing power-plant carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 30% by 2030.
The plan has been the subject of controversy among power companies, alternative energy supporters and business interests since last June when the rule was proposed. Currently, Arkansas environmental and utility regulators are studying the potential impact in conjunction with various stakeholders with an interest in the new rule. Eventually, a state or regional plan to try to comply with the EPA edict will be submitted, if litigation to halt it is unsuccessful.
On Tuesday, Rutledge will appear before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry for a hearing on the EPA’s “waters of the United States” proposed rule. She says the proposed water regulation has the potential for widespread impact on row crop farmers.
Rutledge said her testimony before the panel will be more influential than just sending comments. “What I’ve heard from our members of Congress in the Senate is that it’s important to have to have the state’s lawyer to come explain why it’s an encroachment on states’ rights,” she said.
Watch her full interview below: