Arkansas inmates want new look at execution drug ruling

AP News
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Posted: Jul 07, 2016 6:06 PM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Attorneys for eight death row inmates asked Arkansas' highest court Thursday to reconsider its decision upholding a state law that keeps information about its lethal injection drugs confidential.

The petition for rehearing filed with the state Supreme Court argues that justices overlooked several of the inmates' arguments when they reversed a lower court's decision against the law, which requires the Department of Correction to conceal the maker, seller and other information about the drugs. The inmates have argued the law could lead to cruel and unusual punishment and that the state reneged on an earlier pledge to share information.

The filing likely further delays the state's efforts to resume executions following last month's 4-3 decision, which won't take effect until the court rules on the inmates' request. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has said she won't ask Gov. Asa Hutchinson to set execution dates until the ruling takes effect.

One of the state's three lethal injection drugs expired last week. Arkansas hasn't executed an inmate since 2005.

In Thursday's petition, the inmates challenged, among other arguments, the high court's interpretation of a clause in the state constitution requiring an "accurate and detailed statement" about state expenditures and receipts be published. Justices ruled the state constitution left it to lawmakers to decide how such information should be disclosed.

"The Publication Clause mandates that payees of public money be disclosed to the general populace," the inmates' filing said. "But the court's reading of the term 'published' will allow the Legislature to impose any restriction it wants on distribution, including an outright ban."

A spokesman for the Republican attorney general said Rutledge would respond in court to the inmates' filing.

In October, the state Department of Correction said in court documents that the unnamed supplier of the original batches of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride would not supply more when they expired. The vecuronium bromide expired on June 30 and the other two drugs expire in 2017.

Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves said the state's execution drug inventory has not changed.

Hutchinson, a Republican, has said he wants the Department of Correction to find a new supply of the drug rather than use another method allowed under the law passed last year. The law says Arkansas can use a one-drug protocol— a barbiturate— or to seek drugs from an accredited compounding pharmacy.

"I think we have a firmly well-established, court-approved method of execution and that's what we should plan for and try to implement," Hutchinson said Thursday.

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