Federal Judge Kristine Baker, in a 104-page opinion filed today, upheld the state’s three-drug execution method, particularly the use of the paralytic midazolam.
Death Row inmates had challenged the protocol as likely to cause unconstitutional pain and suffering but unable to demonstrate it.
The judge’s opinion granted plaintiffs’ claims for greater access to the court through an additional attorney in the execution viewing room and access to a telephone should a court need to be reached during that time. But she denied their request for the ability to observe preparations for execution before the viewing room may see the condemned inmate strapped to a gurney.
There are no executions currently scheduled in Arkansas and the state currently has no supplies of the drugs used to kill inmates.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge cheered the ruling, which is likely to be appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a statement following the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas’s decision upholding the constitutionality of Arkansas’s three-drug lethal injection. That protocol uses midazolam, vercuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. For years, convicted murderers and death-penalty opponents have waged a legal battle against Arkansas’s lethal injection protocol to prevent just and lawful sentences from being carried out. The decision follows Rutledge’s previous successful defense of that protocol on appeal in April 2017.
“As the Attorney General, I enforce the laws in the State and bring justice for families who have long been devastated at the hands of these murderers,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Today’s final judgment reaffirms the constitutionality of Arkansas’s execution protocol.”
The opinion covers cases involving 17 men on Death Row.