At­tor­ney gen­eral seeks execution dates

State’s sup­ply of lethal drug un­clear

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - JOHN MORITZ

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.

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