Arkansas governor asked to set execution dates for 8 inmates

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas' attorney general has asked Gov. Asa Hutchinson to set execution dates for eight death row inmates in what would be the state's first executions in a decade.

A spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge confirmed Tuesday that the request was made. Hutchinson's spokesman, J.R. Davis, said the governor received the requests late Monday. Davis said Hutchinson did not have an immediate timeline for when he would set the dates, but said that he planned to move quickly.

The Arkansas Department of Correction purchased enough of the three drugs used in the state's new execution protocol, which were received in early July, to perform the executions. A state law passed this year lets the department buy the drugs secretly, as in other states.

According to an invoice in which the name of the supplier is blacked out, the department paid $24,226 for the three drugs needed for lethal injections, including the sedative midazolam.

Midazolam was implicated after executions last year in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma went on longer than expected, with inmates gasping and groaning as they died. The U.S. Supreme Court in June approved continued use of the drug, rejecting a challenge from three Oklahoma inmates now set to be put to death in September and October.

Rutledge's spokesman Judd Deere said there were eight letters sent, one each for inmates Bruce Earl Ward, Don William Davis, Jack Jones, Jason McGehee, Kenneth Williams, Marcel Williams, Stacey Johnson and Terrick Nooner.

Rutledge wrote in an emailed response to The Associated Press that she hoped the process would move quickly.

"These individuals were sentenced to death for the heinous crimes they committed," she wrote. "It is far past time that the sentences be carried out and justice served. I urge the governor to move forward with setting execution dates as quickly as possible."

It was not immediately known how the state would choose the order of executions or how quickly they would begin.

The eight men have exhausted their court appeals for their criminal convictions, but the inmates filed a joint lawsuit in April when the law was passed allowing the state to keep the manufacturer of the drugs a secret. A ninth death row inmate, who has not exhausted his appeal, is also a plaintiff in that lawsuit.

Attorney Jeff Rosenzweig, who represents the inmates, said Tuesday he will try to delay any execution date the governor might set.

"We are still pursuing our lawsuit and we'll be pursuing all remedies to make sure they aren't executed until the lawsuit is resolved," he said. "We think it will be resolved in a way that does not allow the state to execute them under the protocol they are wanting to pursue ... particularly them wanting to keep secret whether they received the drugs from a reputable source or some fly-by-night operation."

Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005, when Eric Nance was executed for the killing of 18-year-old Julie Heath of Malvern. The state's execution procedures had been challenged in court In the years since. Executions were delayed by drug shortages and the inmates' standard appeals.

There are currently 34 men listed on death row, according to the Department of Correction.

Under the new protocol approved in early August, Arkansas will administer midazolam to knock the inmates out, then use vecuronium bromide as a paralytic and then potassium chloride to stop the heart. The paralytic Arkansas purchased expires next June. The potassium chloride expires in January 2017, and the midazolam expires in April 2017.


This story has been corrected to show the execution drugs were received by the state in early July, not late July.

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