Arkansas Prisons

Arkansas' prison system says that an agreement to tell condemned inmates the source of its execution drugs isn't technically a contract and that a judge should dismiss a lawsuit challenging a new death penalty law.

Jeff Rosenzweig

An attorney for eight Arkansas inmates scheduled to be put to death beginning later this month is asking a judge to rule in their favor before the lawsuit alleging new death penalty procedures are unconstitutional goes to trial.

Attorney Jeff Rosenzweig filed motions in circuit court Thursday saying a new secrecy law violates an agreement prisoners have with the state. He said if a judge doesn't rule in their favor, the judge should impose an emergency injunction to protect the inmates' lives.

Eight death row inmates are asking an Arkansas judge to stop their executions, arguing that the state's refusal to reveal where it gets execution drugs is unconstitutional.

The argument, made in a court filing late Monday, is similar to arguments unsuccessfully used by death-row inmates in other states.

But the filing argues that Arkansas new secrecy law violates a previous settlement with the state that ensured inmates would be given the information.

About 41,000 chickens died from suffocation at Arkansas' Cummins Unit prison after a tractor accident knocked out power to the layer houses for more than seven hours.

State Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley described the accident Monday in her report to the Arkansas Board of Corrections. An inmate hit an electricity pole and the ventilators in the chicken enclosure went offline last month.

A pharmaceutical company that ended its contract with Arkansas in 2013 after its drugs were purchased for lethal injections is investigating whether the state plans to use one of its sedatives in upcoming executions.

Arkansas Dept. of Correction

The Arkansas Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of an inmate convicted of killing his cellmate at a maximum security prison.

Robert Holland was convicted of capital murder in the 2012 strangulation of Matthew Scheile. According to court records, Holland had refused to have a cellmate but agreed to accept Scheile in his cell on Dec. 7, 2012. That same night, Scheile was found dead in the cell they shared at the Cummins unit.

Ouachita County Sheriff David Norwood says human error played a role in the escape of a suspected killer.

Austin Hill escaped Wednesday when he jumped out of a van at the county jail in Camden as it returned from a hospital. He remains at large.

Norwood told the Camden News that a gate was not immediately closed behind the van, giving Hill time to escape. Norwood says video also shows Hill not wearing the leg irons he was wearing when the van left the hospital.

Don William Davis and Bruce Earl Ward execution
Arkansas Department Of Correction

Two Arkansas inmates set for execution next month have until Sept. 21 to tell the state's Parole Board whether they want to be considered for clemency.

Bruce Earl Ward and Don William Davis are to die in a double-execution Oct. 21. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has set four double-executions in each of the next four months after Attorney General Leslie Rutledge certified that no court decisions currently stand in the way of their being put to death.

As Arkansas contends with overcrowded prisons, high rates of recidivism among parolees, and the potential resumption of executions, a conference this weekend at the UALR Bowen School of Law is focusing on findings of a report by the Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System Project.

The Arkansas Parole Board has adopted changes in which parole violators might not be automatically arrested for some violations.

The board announced Thursday that arrest warrants will be automatically issued for parole violators who are charged with a violent felony or sex-related crime or any crime involving use of a weapon. Arrest warrants will also be issued for parolees who evade supervision for 180 or more days.

Other requests for an arrest warrant will be reviewed by a parole board member as the board seeks to help reduce prison overcrowding.