Arkansas Court Gives OK To Execute Inmates, Upholds Secrecy

Jun 23, 2016

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says she will request new execution dates for eight death row inmates after the Arkansas Supreme Court uphold the state's execution secrecy law. 

But a spokesman for Rutledge says she has not yet decided whether to ask the high court to expedite the formalization of its ruling so Arkansas could move forward with executions before one of its lethal injection drugs expires June 30.

Court decisions generally aren't certified until 18 days after they are handed down, meaning the decision would become final July 11.

Rutledge spokesman Judd Deere says the attorney general is "considering all options" in order to resume executions in Arkansas, which has not put an inmate to death since 2005 because of court challenges. The court issued its ruling Thursday.

The inmates had argued that Arkansas' execution secrecy law could lead to cruel and unusual punishment and that the state has reneged on a pledge to share information. Attorneys for the state said at least five other courts had ruled that the three drugs used in Arkansas' protocol are acceptable including the sedative midazolam.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Oklahoma's use of midazolam last year. One of the state's execution drugs will expire June 30, and the seller has said it will not provide more.

Arkansas Supreme Court Associate Justice Robin Wynne says the decision to dismiss the inmates' appeal of the state's death penalty secrecy law was incorrect. Wynne writes in a partial dissent that the inmates proved their claim that the law violated the state constitution's prohibition on cruel or unusual punishment, and that he believes the secrecy requirements are unconstitutional.

Associated Justice Josephine Linker Hart writes in a separate dissent that the court should have required the state to disclose the makers and sellers of the drugs because the state failed to properly appeal the denial of a protective order over that information. She writes that because the majority dismissed the challenge for insufficient facts, she would allow the inmates to make further pleadings.

Associate Justice Paul Danielson also dissented, saying the court could not rule because the lower court had not made a sufficient decision on the state's claims that it was immune from the lawsuit. The Arkansas Supreme Court says the state can execute eight death row inmates using its three-drug protocol.