Arkansas Prisons

The Arkansas Supreme Court says a lower-court judge overstepped his jurisdiction by halting the executions of eight death row inmates, but then granted its own stay so the inmates have enough time to challenge a state law that shields the source of death penalty drugs from the public.

The justices issued the ruling Tuesday, granting the state's request to toss out a stay granted this month by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen. But justices also immediately granted their own stay.

Stacey Eugene Johnson
Arkansas Department Of Correction

One of eight Arkansas death row inmates whose executions were stayed by a circuit court is asking the Arkansas Parole Board for clemency.

Stacey Eugene Johnson's defense attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, told the board Thursday that Johnson may be innocent and his sentence should be commuted to life without parole.

Johnson was convicted in the 1993 death of Carol Heath, who was killed while her two young children were home.

Lawyers for the state of Arkansas have filed notice that they will appeal a lower court judge's temporary restraining order that halted eight planned executions scheduled to begin next week.

Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen has ordered the state to disclose the contents of its three drug lethal injection mixture before proceeding with eight executions.

While state law allows the drugs’ names be withheld, attorneys for the inmates argue secrecy hampers their ability to challenge a potentially cruel and unusual form of punishment.  

University of Arkansas Bowen School of Law professor Angela Epps says the case may go before the state supreme court.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

An Arkansas judge says he will rule by early next week on a request to dismiss a lawsuit brought by death row inmates seeking to stop eight executions scheduled to begin Oct. 21. 

A judge is set to consider arguments on Arkansas' request to dismiss a lawsuit from death row inmates challenging the state's secrecy law surrounding its execution drugs.

The case before Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen on Wednesday comes two weeks before the first executions scheduled in Arkansas in nearly a decade.

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.