State racing expiration of lethal injection ingredient
little rock, ark.» After nearly a dozen years without an execution, Arkansas is racing to put eight men to death next month over a 10-day period — an unprecedented timetable the state says is necessary because one of the three ingredients in the lethal injection will soon expire.
If carried out, the executions beginning April 17 would make Arkansas the first state to execute that many inmates in such a short time since the death penalty was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976.
The accelerated schedule calls for prison workers to conduct four double executions, with only a few days in between. It poses a number of risks, experts say, and the state’s preparations are shrouded in secrecy.
Some attorneys and death-penalty opponents question whether the quick turnarounds will intensify pressure on the prison staff and cause problems, as happened in Oklahoma in 2014, when an inmate writhed and moaned on a gurney for 43 minutes after his injection, or in Arizona, where the fatal dose took nearly two hours to work.
At the heart of the rush is the shortage of the sedative midazolam, used to put an inmate to sleep before receiving the lethal chemicals. The Arkansas supply expires at the end of April, and it’s unclear whether the state can find more. Drug makers have stopped selling it to prisons because they object to the product being used in executions.
A closed-circuit television camera watches over the Department of Correction death chamber in Varner, Ark. The agency in April 2017 will attempt to conduct four double-executions in a 10-day period after not executing anyone 2005.