"State stymied on executions," is the title of John Lyon's post at the Arkansas News Bureau.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel voiced frustration with the state Supreme Court last week over what he sees as resistance to the death penalty, but other legal experts say the problems the state has encountered in carrying out executions cannot be laid entirely at the court’s feet.
In an interview with Arkansas News Bureau business columnist Roby Brock, McDaniel said, “If the Supreme Court thinks … that executions should be declared unconstitutional, then they should do that. But instead, since the day I became attorney general they’ve simply erected one procedural hurdle after another to ensure that we can’t execute those who have committed the most heinous crimes in Arkansas.”
Numerous lawsuits and court rulings have prevented the state from executing any prisoners since 2005. Most recently, the state Supreme Court ruled last month that a 2009 law authorizing the director of the state Department of Correction to decide what chemicals are used in lethal injections gave the director too much discretion, in violation of the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of state government.
Gov. Mike Beebe has said he does not intend to schedule any executions until the Legislature passes a new law on lethal injections. That is expected to happen during the legislative session that starts in January.
Michael Johnson, a law professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said states across the country have changed their lethal injection protocols in recent years, which has led to numerous legal challenges.
“I think the problems really have occurred over the last several years because of unavailability of drugs used in the protocols,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the state Supreme Court struck down that law not because it found lethal injection unconstitutional but because it found that the law violated the state constitution’s provision mandating separation of powers.
“That’s pretty specific to the Arkansas Constitution, as opposed to something broader about the death penalty,” he said.
Related posts are in the lethal injection index.