Attorney general seeks execution dates
State’s supply of lethal drug unclear
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked that execution dates be set for eight Arkansas inmates after the state’s Supreme Court issued its mandate Friday allowing the executions to move forward.
Rutledge’s letters requesting that death sentences for the men be carried out were hand delivered to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office Friday evening, according to a spokesman for the attorney general.
A spokesman for the governor confirmed the receipt of the letters but said no announcements
were planned until next week.
It remains unknown if the state prison system has the drugs needed to carry out executions after its supply of potassium chloride, used in the state’s three-drug protocol, expired last month.
Also Friday, Jeff Rosenzweig, a lawyer for the condemned inmates, said he filed another request in Pulaski County Circuit Court
seeking an injunction to stop the executions from taking place.
The Arkansas high court’s mandate stems from its ruling to uphold Arkansas’ execution statutes last summer. After ruling 4- 3 against a group of death-row inmates, the court issued a stay of its mandate to allow the prisoners to take their challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear the prisoners’ case, opening the door for executions to begin in Arkansas for the first time in more than a decade.
The mandate issued Friday was a single-page copy of the court’s ruling from June 23.
Of the nine inmates who had challenged Arkansas’ method of lethal injection — which they argued amounted to cruel and unusual punishment — eight had previously had execution dates set by Hutchinson.
However, one of those inmates, Terrick Nooner, was deemed incompetent to be executed in October 2015, Rutledge spokesman Judd Deere said Friday. Nooner is still listed on the state’s death roster. Deere said Rutledge’s office has no plans to request an execution date for Nooner.
However, another inmate, Ledelle Lee, has exhausted all of his appeals, Deere said, and was included in the execution requests sent to the governor. Lee also was a plaintiff in the Supreme Court challenge but at the time had not had an execution date set.
“As Attorney General Rutledge said she would do, she
has sent letters to the Governor informing him that executions may resume and requesting that dates be set for those who have exhausted all appeals,” Deere said in an emailed statement. “The families of the victims will see justice carried out for those who committed heinous crimes against their loved ones.”
A spokesman for the Department of Correction said in a text Friday that he was unaware of any changes to Arkansas’ supply of execution drugs.
Arkansas’ three-drug protocol of lethal injection, established by Act 1096 of 2015, uses midazolam, a sedative; followed by vecuronium bromide, a paralytic; followed by potassium chloride, to stop the heart. The state also can use a single-drug protocol using a barbiturate, though the department has no known supply of such drugs.
Midazolam was the drug at the center of the prisoners’ case, as it has been linked to botched executions in other states. The prisoners argued the drug was ineffective at easing the pain caused by the subsequent two drugs.
The other prisoners whose executions were requested to be scheduled Friday were Stacey Johnson, Jason McGehee, Bruce Ward, Jack Jones, Marcell Williams, Kenneth Williams and Don Davis.
Rosenzweig provided a copy of a legal appeal he said he filed Friday challenging the state’s execution protocol. In December 2015, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled that parts of the law were unconstitutional, but his ruling was overturned by the state Supreme Court.