Arkansas High Court Strikes Down Execution Law

Legislature, not corrections dept., must set death penalty rules: court
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jun 22, 2012 11:25 AM CDT
Arkansas death-row inmate Jack Harold Jones Jr. initiated the lawsuit.   (AP Photo/Mike Wintroath)

(Newser) – A split Arkansas Supreme Court says the state's execution law is unconstitutional. The state's constitution says that execution rules must be set by the legislature, but a 2009 law put matters in the hands of the Department of Corrections, the AP reports. Under that law, the director of the department selects the chemicals used in lethal injection. That prompted a death row inmate to slap the department with a lawsuit, which was eventually joined by nine other inmates.

Now the state will likely revert to the 1983 statute that set lethal injection as the state's execution method, though the statute could be amended, according to a lawyer for the inmates. As for the 40 inmates currently on death row, the practical consequences of the court's decision remain murky. Thanks in part to lawsuits, there hasn't been an execution in Arkansas since 2005, and there are none pending now. (Read more Arkansas stories.)

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