LITTLE ROCK — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday denied an appeal by a group of Arkansas death-row inmates who challenged Arkansas’ lethal-injection law.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said the ruling clears the way for the state to move forward on executions.
Nine condemned inmates had asked the nation’s top court to overturn a June ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court that upheld the constitutionality of Arkansas’ execution law. The inmates argued that the law could cause them to experience cruel and unusual punishment and that a provision keeping secret the sources of execution drugs violated their rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling “sets the stage for execution in the specified cases to proceed,” Hutchinson said in a statement Tuesday.
Arkansas currently does not have the drugs needed to carry out executions. Its supply of potassium chloride, part of a three-drug cocktail the state intends to use for lethal injections, expired Jan. 1 and has not been replaced.
“I will proceed in accordance with law and in a timely manner,” Hutchinson said. “Since (the) ‘use by’ date on one of the drugs has expired it will be necessary for the Department of Correction to make the acquisition.”
Rutledge said in a statement, “I will immediately provide the court’s order to the Arkansas Supreme Court, and once the clerk issues the mandate, the current injunction on executions will automatically be lifted. Thereafter, I will inform Gov. Hutchinson that executions may resume and request that dates be set for those who have exhausted all appeals.”
The state intends to execute condemned inmates via injections of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The inmates argued that midazolam, a sedative, does not sufficiently sedate a person and pointed to botched executions in other states, including one in Oklahoma in which a prisoner apparently became conscious midway through his execution.
The state’s supply of midazolam will expire in April and its supply of vercuronium bromide will expire in March 2018, according to state Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves.
“We will move forward with preparations when appropriate,” Graves said Tuesday.
Jeff Rosenzweig, an attorney for the inmates, said Tuesday, “We are disappointed, obviously, in the ruling, and we are considering our options.”
Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005 because of legal challenges and difficulties in obtaining drugs for executions. In 2015 the Legislature and Hutchinson approved a law making the sources of execution drugs secret in the hope that manufacturers would be more willing to provide drugs for executions.