- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A case that examines whether a 2013 law gives the state’s correction department too much authority in setting lethal-injection protocol is now before the Arkansas Supreme Court.

The court on Thursday heard oral arguments from an assistant state attorney general and a lawyer representing nine death-row inmates, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1vNvNC0 ) reported.

Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen last year put lethal injections on hold in the state. He said the law stipulating the department use a barbiturate wasn’t adequate and gave the department too much leeway to decide what drugs to use and how they should be administered.

The ruling is a response to a 2013 lawsuit by the nine death-row inmates who challenged the latest rewrite of the Method of Execution Act, which replaced the electric chair with lethal injection in 1983.

Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Merritt said during oral arguments that the law provides “sufficient guidance” to prison officials.

Josh Lee, the inmates’ public defender, said that the statute also allows the correction department to decide whether medical personnel should be present at an execution.

“What the General Assembly has said is, ‘We can have a quick and painless death, or a slow and agonizing death. Department of Correction, it’s up to you,’” Lee said.

He also said in an email after the hearing that “This case is really not about the death penalty. It is about making sure that government agencies don’t exceed their authority. Not just prisoners but also Arkansas businesses and ordinary citizens need government agencies to stay within the limits of their constitutional authority.”

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com


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