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Arkansas Supreme Court: Execution Law Unconstitutional

Common Dreams staff

(photo: World Coalition Against the Death Penalty)

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled today that the state's lethal injection law is unconstitutional.

In its decision in the case Hobbs v. Jones filed by group of prisoners awaiting execution in Arkansas, the court found that the state's Method of Execution Act of 2009 allowing the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) "unfettered discretion in determining the chemicals to be used" unconstitutional and that only the state legislature had that ability.

Writing the majority opinion, Associate Justice Jim Gunter states, "It is evident to this court that the legislature has abdicated its responsibility and passed to the executive branch, in this case the ADC, the unfettered discretion to determine all protocol and procedures, most notably the chemicals to be used, for a state execution. The MEA fails to provide reasonable guidelines for the selection of chemicals to be used during lethal injection and it fails to provide any general policy with regard to the lethal-injection procedure."

The Arkansas Department of Corrections currently has 40 inmates on death row.

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MSNBC: Ark. Supreme Court sides with inmates, declares execution law unconstitutional

The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state's execution law Friday, calling it unconstitutional.


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In a split decision, the high court sided with 10 death row inmates who argued that, under Arkansas' constitution, only the Legislature can set execution policy. Legislators in 2009 voted to give that authority to the Department of Correction.

The 2009 law says a death sentence is to be carried out by lethal injection of one or more chemicals that the director of the Department of Correction chooses.

Death row inmate Jack Harold Jones Jr. sued the head of the correction department in 2010, challenging the constitutionality of the law. Nine other inmates have since joined the suit, asking that the law be struck down. [...]

Part of the 2009 law also says that in the event it's found unconstitutional, death sentences will be carried out by electrocution.


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