Arkansas moves to resume executions, but state lacks drug

AP News
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Posted: Feb 24, 2017 8:14 PM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas' attorney general on Friday asked for execution dates to be set for eight death row inmates, but state officials said they're still lacking one of the three lethal injection drugs needed to put the men to death.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked Gov. Asa Hutchinson to set dates for the eight men now that the U.S. Supreme Court rejected their appeals. The U.S. high court on Tuesday said it wouldn't review a state Supreme Court decision upholding Arkansas' lethal injection law, which keeps the suppliers of its lethal injection drugs secret.

Rutledge's request came hours after the state high court lifted its stay on that ruling.

"It's her job as the state's attorney to notify the governor when there's no pending litigation or injunction preventing executions from occurring and because none of those apply right now, executions can move forward at this time," said Judd Deere, Rutledge's spokesman.

Arkansas hasn't executed an inmate since 2005 due to legal challenges and difficulties obtaining execution drugs. The state's supply of potassium chloride, one of three drugs used in lethal injections, expired in January. A prison system spokesman said the drug hasn't been replaced and was unaware of any attempts to acquire a new supply.

But Hutchinson's office said the governor next week would schedule dates for the executions.

"My understanding is there's confidence in acquiring that drug," spokesman J.R. Davis said.

An attorney for the inmates said Friday evening he had filed an amended complaint in Pulaski County aimed at blocking the executions. The complaint asks the court to declare the state's lethal injection law and the three-drug protocol unconstitutional.

"Hopefully we'll convince the judiciary that the executions should not take place," Attorney Jeff Rosenzweig said.

The state's supply of vecuronium bromide expires on March 1, 2018, while its supply of midazolam expires in April. The state announced it received a new supply of the vecuronium bromide in July, days after its previous supply of the drug expired. The drug appears to have been made by a subsidiary of Pfizer, even though the pharmaceutical giant has said it doesn't want its drugs to be used in executions. Using a redacted photo obtained from the Department of Correction, The Associated Press in July matched the new supply of the drug to labels submitted to the National Institutes of Health by Hospira, Inc., which Pfizer bought in 2015.

Arkansas currently has 34 inmates on death row. Hutchinson set execution dates in 2015 for the eight inmates before they were put on hold by the state Supreme Court during their challenge to the secrecy law.

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