State Supreme Court Upholds Lethal Injection In Arkansas

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LITTLE ROCK (KFSM) - The Arkansas Supreme Court upheld lethal injection in The Natural State on Thursday morning (March 19), according to court documents.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said the Supreme Court’s ruling is a big hurdle in moving forward with executions in the state.

“This ruling gives us the opportunity to begin asking for a date to be set,” Rutledge said Thursday (March 19) in an interview in Fort Smith.

Lynn Lisk is a law professor at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith, and said the court ruling is a matter of separation of power between the three branches of government.

"The court said they gave too much power to the governor when they said, ‘You can execute them using any drug you want.’ And they said, 'You're giving them too much authority and power. You are delegating a way your legislative authority to prescribe the method of execution,” Lisk said.

He said the old law allowed almost any lethal drug to be used for an execution. Now, a barbiturate must be used, giving the administration less authority on how an execution is performed.

Of the 32 inmates on death row, Rutledge said less than 10 have exhausted their appeals.

"Those will be the first ones that we look at to ask for a date to be set,” she said.

“It’s my hope that we will be able to carry out these executions and give these families, and families of the victims the closure that they need,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge said the most recent execution in Arkansas was when Governor Mike Huckabee was in office about 10 years ago.

The Pulaski County Circuit Court ruled in 2013 that the Arkansas lethal injection law (Act 139) violated the separation-of-powers doctrine because it gave the Arkansas Department of Correction the "absolute discretion" to decide what type of drug to use in executions, court documents state.

"It sets no guidelines or standards concerning the competence of personnel who will carry out the death sentences," the circuit court ruled.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled, "We disagree, and hold that Act 139 is not an unconstitutional violation of the separation-of-powers clause found in this state's constitution."

The Arkansas Supreme Court's ruling on Thursday reversed the Pulaski County Circuit Court's 2013 ruling, officials said.

To read the majority opinion from the Arkansas Supreme Court, click here.

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