LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Mike Beebe has decided to hold off on setting execution dates because of litigation over Arkansas’ execution law and problems with its death penalty protocol, a spokesman for the governor said Tuesday.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel last month asked Beebe to set execution dates for seven condemned killers after the state Supreme Court declared stays that had been granted to six of them from a previous case challenging Arkansas’ old lethal-injection procedure were no longer in effect.
Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said Tuesday that a legal challenge of a new execution law adopted this year was a factor in the governor’s decision to defer setting executions dates, along with problems with the procedure for actually carrying out the death penalty.
“The drug that we acquired, the manufacturer has made clear they don’t want used for executions,” DeCample said, “and there is strong uncertainty whether we would even be able to use the drugs we have now before they expire, just due to the legal entanglements.”
New Jersey-based West-Ward Pharmaceuticals last month closed its account with the Arkansas Department of Correction after learning that the state planned to use drugs it had purchased from the company for executions. The department had bought 25 vials of phenobarbital, an anti-seizure drug, and 25 vials of lorazepam, a sedative, from the company in April.
A Department of Correction spokeswoman said Monday that because of the company’s action, the agency will rewrite its lethal-injection protocol and look at using other drugs — of the same class — in executions.
The Department of Correction is also the defendant in a lawsuit by nine death-row inmates who are challenging a law enacted this year setting forth the procedure for executing inmates. The inmates claim the law would allow them to be subjected to inhumane deaths and argue that the state should be required to comply with the death-penalty law that was in place when they were sentenced to death.
Beebe’s spokesman said Tuesday the governor has no timetable for setting dates for putting condemned inmates to death.
“It’s going to depend on the courts, as it often has throughout his administration,” DeCample said, “and there are a few difficulties we have to address before we proceed.”
Acknowledging the issues Beebe faces, McDaniel said Tuesday he was “confident the governor will follow the law and set dates as soon as possible.”