Arkansas says death row inmates not entitled to new hearing


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Government lawyers said Thursday that eight death row inmates who lost a challenge to secrecy provisions within Arkansas’ execution protocol aren’t entitled to another review and that further filings by the prisoners would delay justice for victims and their families.

The Arkansas Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, ruled against the inmates June 23. Their lawyers subsequently asked justices to reconsider their decision, and requested stays of execution pending a review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Merritt wrote Thursday that justices not let the men cause additional delays.

Arkansas has not put a prisoner to death since 2005 due to various court challenges and its inability to obtain lethal drugs. Last summer, it obtained midazolam to render the inmates unconscious, vecuronium bromide as a paralytic and potassium chloride to stop the heart, but the paralytic expired as the inmates challenged whether it was proper to keep execution procedures secret.

Arkansas has since found a new supply of vecuronium bromide. But the clock is ticking again: The potassium chloride expires in January; the midazolam expires in April.

“The state is in a position to carry out, in a constitutional manner, the lawful death sentences in place against the prisoners,” Merritt wrote. “Delaying … would only serve to delay justice for the victims and their families, and would potentially result in the expiration of the state’s remaining supply of the other drugs in the protocol.”

The inmates argue that the Arkansas Constitution requires the release of detailed information about state expenditures and that legislators lacked the authority to change that. Merritt on Thursday pointed the justices back to their initial decision.

“At some point, endless litigation and creative litigation tactics must yield to the lawful imposition of society’s considered punishment for the most heinous murders,” she wrote. “We have reached that point.”

Executions are on hold while the inmates’ request is pending. State Supreme Court rulings don’t take effect for 18 days or until after requests for new hearings are heard and dismissed. If the inmates’ requests for stays and a rehearing are dismissed, the attorney general would certify to the governor whether the inmates have exhausted their appeals and are eligible for execution. The governor would then sign death warrants.

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