Nine Arkansas death row inmates who have exhausted their appeals are a step closer to being executed after the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday (Feb. 21) denied a petition for a writ of certiorari regarding the state’s method of execution.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced that her office would provide the order to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which had ruled in the state’s favor in a case regarding Act 1096 of 2015 allowing makers of execution drugs to remain secret. Along with that ruling, the court had issued an injunction pending the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Once the Arkansas Supreme Court clerk issues a mandate, the injunction on the executions will be lifted, which will lead Rutledge to inform Gov. Asa Hutchinson that execution dates can be set.
Ready to be executed are Stacey Johnson, Jason McGehee, Bruce Ward, Terrick Nooner, Jack Jones, Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams, Don Davis and Ledell Lee. There are 34 men on Arkansas’ death row. The last inmate executed was Eric Nance, for the rape and murder of Julie Heath of Malvern in 2005.
The inmates’ attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, said, “We’re disappointed in the ruling of the Supreme Court, and we are studying our options.”
The nine inmates’ appeals have been exhausted, but legal remedies become available once the dates of execution are set. Those remedies are available until the moment they are executed, including clemencies that Hutchinson has given no indication he will provide.
Act 1096 spelled out a three-drug protocol of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride and made electrocution an option. It allows drug makers of execution drugs to remain anonymous because some require secrecy because of publicity concerns.
In a statement from his office, Hutchinson said, “Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court sets the stage for execution in the specified cases to proceed. The next step is for the mandate to issue and upon notice by the attorney general for the dates to be set. I will proceed in accordance with law and in a timely manner. Since ‘use by’ date on one of the drugs has expired, it will be necessary for the Department of Correction to make the acquisition.”
The state’s supply of potassium chloride expired in January 2017. According to Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves, “We will move forward with preparations when appropriate.”
The supply of midazolam expires in April 2017, while the vercuronium bromide expires March 2018.