Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Arkansas to Revive Lethal Injections Soon, Says Governor

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Arkansas to Revive Lethal Injections Soon, Says Governor

Article excerpt

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on Wednesday that he hoped to start scheduling execution dates for death row inmates before the end of the year, in a move toward the state's first execution in over a decade.

"I certainly would expect to set dates before January, absolutely," Governor Hutchinson, a Republican, told reporters by phone from Europe, where he was on a trade mission. "It's been way too long and painful for the victims and their families, so we would set the dates without any undue delay."

Capital punishment by lethal injection is legal in Arkansas, but challenges to the law have tied up authorities' efforts to press forward with executions for the 34 inmates currently on death row there. Similar legal challenges have held up executions in several other states since a 2014 botched execution in Oklahoma raised public concerns around the potential for cruel and unusual punishment.

Execution drugs have also become more difficult for death penalty states to obtain, as pharmaceutical companies have become reluctant to supply them. In effort to find alternative drugs, several states have sought replacement drug cocktails, which have come under scrutiny.

In Arkansas, the latest challenge involved the state's secrecy law, which conceals the identities of makers and sellers of execution drug suppliers. A group of death row inmates argued that the law violated a previous agreement to share information and that shielding the drugs' contents from public scrutiny could lead to cruel and unusual punishment.

In June, the Arkansas state Supreme Court Arkansas state Supreme Court upheld the secrecy law in a 4-3 decision, overruling a lower court's decision, as The Christian Science Monitor reported at the time. In the majority opinion, judges wrote that the lower court had "erred in ruling that public access to the identity of the supplier of the three drugs" used in lethal injections would "positively enhance the functioning of executions in Arkansas."

"As has been well documented, disclosing the information is actually detrimental to the process," the judges wrote.

Another challenge to lethal injections in the state - this one aimed at the protocol used in carrying them out - was also struck down in 2015 by a 4-3 ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court. …

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