- Associated Press - Monday, April 6, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday approved legislation aimed at restarting executions after a decade-long lull, prompting several death row inmates to ask a court to strike the measure down.

Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said the governor signed into law a bill that will allow the Department of Correction to use a combination of three drugs for executions. The state currently allows a one-drug barbiturate injection - a method upheld by the state’s high court last month. The measure also bars the state from releasing who makes or supplies the drugs.

An attorney for seven death row inmates late Monday afternoon said he filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new law and arguing it violates a previous contract with the state that guarantees disclosure of the source of the drugs to death row inmates who sued the state. The lawsuit had been submitted after the Pulaski County clerk’s office had closed for the day and did not appear on the clerk’s website Monday evening.

“This action is explicitly barred by the Arkansas Constitution and numerous judicial decisions,” attorney Jeff Rosenzweig said in an email. “No court is going to allow the State to go back on its agreement.”

A spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge declined to comment until the state is notified the lawsuit has been filed. Rutledge’s office had previously said it didn’t believe the 2013 contract should prevent the legislature from amending the law.

Hutchinson said he didn’t believe his administration was bound by that agreement.

“I looked at it, and it looked applicable to one particular case,” Hutchinson said Monday night on the Arkansas Educational Television Network. “I don’t know that that had application for every subsequent administration, every subsequent case that would ever come up.”

The lawsuit also says keeping drug supplier information secret violates inmates’ constitutional due process rights and protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

Hutchinson last month said he supported keeping the information confidential and said some suppliers were reluctant to sell because of boycotts and public pressure. He repeated his support for the measure earlier Monday.

“It provides some clarity, it provides some protections and confidentiality,” Hutchinson told reporters.

Arkansas has 32 inmates on death row, but hasn’t executed anyone since 2005 because of legal challenges and a shortage of drugs used in lethal injections. The state Supreme Court last month ruled the state’s 2013 lethal injection law was constitutional, rejecting a lower judge’s ruling that the measure gave prison officials too much power to set execution protocols.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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