Steve Barnes reports for Reuters that the office of Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said on Wednesday the state now has drugs at the ready for use in lethal injections.
Among the drugs purchased by the Arkansas is midazolam, a sedative that the U.S. Supreme Court effectively cleared for continued use in executions earlier this year. Midazolam was used in a botched execution in Oklahoma in 2014, after which three men on death row in that state sued to prevent Oklahoma’s continued use of the sedative. The court ruled against the inmates in June in a contentious 5-4 decision.
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Barnes writes that Rutledge “acknowledged through a spokesman that the chemicals planned for use in Arkansas were on hand but declined further comment.” He continues:
Eight of the 35 men on Arkansas’s death row, 20 of whom are black, have exhausted all their appeals, according to Rutledge.
It is the attorney general’s responsibility to ask the governor to set execution dates, but Judd Deere, Rutledge’s press secretary, said she had “no timetable to offer on that at this time.”
This doesn’t necessarily mean Arkansas can immediately move forward with executions. There’s still the matter of a pending lawsuit filed by attorney Jeff Rosenzweig, which challenges the state’s law on lethal injection procedure.
UPDATE, 4:41 p.m.: I spoke to Rosenzweig this afternoon about the status of his suit, which the state has asked Judge Wendell Griffen to dismiss. He said the judge will have a hearing on the case “within the next 30 days, probably sooner.”
“Our lawsuit is over being entitled to know where the drugs are from,” Rosenzweig said. “They are declining to say where they got it from. Of course, the issue there is that, [first], we are Constitutionally entitled to have that information, to determine whether it’s from a reputable place or some fly-by-night dealer.” That’s been a problem before, he said: The federal Drug Enforcement Administration seized drugs from Arkansas (among other states) in 2011 saying they weren’t from a reputable provider.
“And the second thing is that it’s part of the settlement agreement from the lawsuit from two years ago. The state is asserting that their obligation has expired, and we’re saying ‘no, it has not.’ “
Rosenzweig confirmed that for the eight Arkansas inmates on death row who have exhausted their appeals process, the suit over drug sourcing is the main legal obstacle standing in the way of their execution. “The lethal injection issue is the most substantial issue remaining,” he said. A ninth inmate will likely exhaust his appeals options soon.