Arkansas sets eight executions for April despite drug shortage

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By Steve Barnes | LITTLE ROCK, Ark.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. Arkansas on Monday scheduled
eight executions for April, the U.S. state’s first since 2005,
despite lacking one of the three drugs needed to put the men to
death.

Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson signed an order for the
executions, which will take place in pairs from April 17 to 27.

“This action is necessary to fulfill the requirement of the
law, but it is also important to bring closure to the victims’
families who have lived with the court appeals and uncertainty
for a very long time,” he said in a statement.

Arkansas lacks potassium chloride, one of the three drugs
the state uses in lethal injections. The state’s stock of a
second drug, the anesthetic midazolam, also will exceed its
expiration date in April.

It was not clear how Arkansas would get a new supply of
potassium chloride in time for the executions. Pharmaceutical
companies have been increasingly unwilling to sell drugs used in
capital punishment, although Arkansas law grants vendors
confidentiality.

Hutchinson acted after the U.S. Supreme Court last week
rejected appeals from the eight inmates. They contended they
were entitled to know the source of the drugs in order to avoid
unnecessary pain during the executions.

Death penalty opponents contend that midazolam has failed to
render inmates unconscious in at least four U.S. executions,
prolonging the process and subjecting the condemned to extreme
pain.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty
Information Center, said he could not recall another example of
so many executions over such a short period. Arkansas seemed to
be trying to use its midazolam before it expired, he said.

The executions’ rapid pace “creates an extraordinary risk
that something is going to go wrong,” Dunham said.

Scott Braden and John Williams, attorneys for three of the
inmates, urged Hutchinson in a letter to reconsider. “Not only
would our clients suffer, but so would our State’s image and
moral standing in the eyes of the country and the world,” they
wrote.

They also challenged an assertion by Arkansas Attorney
General Leslie Rutledge that all the inmates’ appeals had been
exhausted, citing a case still pending in a state court.



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