Arkansas will resume lethal injections after a 10-year gap starting next month with a double execution, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Sept. 9 as he announced execution dates for eight death-row inmates.
Arkansas hasn’t executed an inmate since 2005, largely because of court challenges to the state’s lethal injection law and a nationwide shortage of drugs that Arkansas has used during executions.
But last week, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge sent letters to the governor requesting that execution dates be set. Rutledge said the inmates’ appeals had been exhausted, and the state Department of Correction said it had enough doses of its lethal-injection drugs to perform the executions.
Hutchinson set four dates through January, meaning two men are scheduled to be executed on each date. But he acknowledged that challenges are likely.
“Quite frankly I would expect continued litigation in it, but it’s my understanding that all of the appeals have been exhausted and that there is a finality in the judgment and that is the reason the Attorney General has asked for those dates to be set,” Hutchinson said.
One pending lawsuit challenges a new state law that allows the Correction Department not to disclose how it obtains its execution drugs. Attorney Jeff Rosenzweig, who is representing the eight inmates in the lawsuit, said he and other lawyers are working on filing motions to delay the executions.
“We think the lethal injection lawsuit presents serious issues that need to be resolved first before any executions can take place,” he said.
Federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have rejected similar arguments used by inmates in Missouri, Texas and other states that also allow prisons to keep their drug suppliers’ names secret.
The first two executions are scheduled for Oct. 21 for death-row inmates Bruce Earl Ward and Don William Davis.
Ward, a former perfume salesman, was convicted in the 1989 killing of 18-year-old Rebecca Doss, whose body was found in the men’s bathroom of the convenience store where she worked. Davis, who had an execution date set in 2006 that was later stayed, was sentenced to death for the 1990 killing of Jane Daniels in northwest Arkansas.
The other execution dates are set for Nov. 3, Dec. 14 and Jan. 14.
Arkansas has executed 27 people since the U.S. Supreme Court reauthorized the death penalty in 1976, though none since Eric Nance was put to death in 2005 for the killing of 18-year-old Julie Heath of Malvern.
Arkansas’s execution protocol calls for a three-drug process. The Department of Correction said that as of July 1, it had enough of the drugs, including midazolam, to perform the executions.
Midazolam was implicated after executions last year in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma went longer than expected, with inmates gasping and groaning as they died. The U.S. Supreme Court approved continued use of the drug in June, rejecting a challenge from three Oklahoma death-row inmates.