Attorney General Dustin McDaniel says that while lethal injections are gummed up in the legal system, other antiquated methods of carrying out the death penalty – such as the electric chair or a firing squad – have problems of their own.
Appearing on this week’s “Talk Business & Politics” program, which airs Sundays at 9am on KATV Ch. 7, McDaniel spoke on the topic that has been a controversial issue in the race to succeed him.
“It’s a very difficult place we’re in legally,” McDaniel said.
The state has not carried out an execution of a death row inmate since 2006 as lawsuits and market forces have prevented lethal injection executions from taking place.
Manufacturers who have the drugs to carry out lethal injections won’t sell to the state due to retaliation from anti-death penalty activists and doctors who might administer the drugs if they were available have been limited due to ethics concerns.
“There’s no way to guarantee the secrecy, the confidentiality of either the supplier of the drug or the executioner,” McDaniel said. “I’m still a strong supporter of the death penalty and am still doing all that I can to see the legal hurdles removed and to see the sentences carried out.”
David Sterling, a Republican candidate for Attorney General to possibly succeed the term-limited McDaniel, has suggested reinstating the electric chair as a method of execution. McDaniel doesn’t see that as a possibility.
“I think the litigation challenges that we’re facing now on lethal injection would be exponentially increased if we attempted an electric chair [execution]. Take the policy out of it – whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea or whether it’s barbaric or whatever – I don’t think you could ever get to the legal point where a federal court would let us use the electric chair,” he said.
“Honestly, if we were going to go to an antiquated and potentially to a more publicly offensive, but maybe more legally defensible method, the only one that my fellow AGs and I think could meet some of the standards would be a firing squad. But I don’t think the voters, I don’t think the general public is at all comfortable with the gruesome nature of a firing squad,” McDaniel said.
You can watch his full comments in the video below.
McDaniel also addressed a recent Arkansas Supreme Court ruling in a high-profile Medicaid fraud and Deceptive Trade Practices case against Risperdal drug maker Johnson & Johnson. The state’s high court ruled 4-3 against McDaniel on the case using a rationale he described as “completely new and foreign.”
McDaniel said the court’s precedent in the Risperdal case undermines more than 170 years of law.
“The Arkansas Supreme Court has the reputation of being a results-oriented court. They get whatever result they want when they craft the law to match what they want done,” McDaniel said. “In this case, they came up with something that no one even argued. It undercuts the credibility of our court and it completely takes away from the Attorney General the ability to ever go after a drug manufacturer no matter what they did or how guilty they are. In this case, the drug manufacturer pleaded guilty to a federal felony and paid $2.2 billion in fines and I’m told we’re never allowed to prosecute them or anyone else.”
McDaniel will also host a Freedom of Information Act conference on Wednesday, April 30 in downtown Little Rock’s River Market. In conjunction with the Arkansas Press Association, the Arkansas Broadcasters Association and the Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the FOIA Forum will be start at 1:30 p.m. at the Central Arkansas Library System’s Ron Robinson Theater at 100 River Market Ave. There is no registration fee and the forum is open to the public.