Arkansas' top lawyer said Wednesday that the current death penalty system is broken.
The state hasn't executed an inmate since 2005. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said he doesn't expect that to change anytime soon as Arkansas grapples with legal challenges and a shortage of drugs used in lethal injections.
McDaniel called for a discussion about the future of the death penalty and mentioned abolishing capital punishment as a possibility, but he stopped short of advocating that.
"Eighteen states have abolished the death penalty," McDaniel said. "The voters of Arkansas can certainly choose that route. The Legislature could choose that route."
So could the courts, he said.
"If the Arkansas Supreme Court decides to abolish the death penalty by declaring it unconstitutional, I would acknowledge that that is an acceptable use of their power," McDaniel said. "But none of those things are happening. ... Rather, we have the current situation, one that I strongly oppose."
"McDaniel says state death penalty procedure broken," is by Stacy Ryburn for the Arkansas News Bureau.
“It’s time for the policy makers of Arkansas to say, ‘Do we continue with a broken system and throwing money and resources at essentially pointless litigation, or do we modify the system?’” he said. “And there’s only really two modifications that I see available — it’s either abolish the death penalty or change the method of execution.”
The problem that state lethal injection presents is that there are no viable execution drugs available for the state to purchase, and even if there were, the American Medical Association says it’s unethical for physicians to take part in ending someone’s life, McDaniel said.
Civil litigation in death-penalty cases is also more burdensome than any other type of appeal. The average convicted inmate in the state spends 15 years on death row, McDaniel said.
The system has evolved, as has McDaniel’s view on the punishment, since he took office in 2007, he said.
“This has evolved nationally in my time as attorney general. The civil litigation has changed both its nature and its effectiveness since I’ve become attorney general; the availability of the drugs has completely changed in my time as attorney general,” McDaniel said. “This was not the state of the law or the facts when I became attorney general.”
Earlier coverage of Arkansas lethal injection issues begins at the link.