by Jeannie Nuss
Posted 1/22/2013 07:35 am
Updated 2 years ago
LITTLE ROCK - More execution legislation is expected to crop up in the coming weeks as policymakers and lawmakers try to come up with a new lethal injection law after the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the one on the books last year.
Staffers with Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's office are working with the Department of Correction on new execution legislation that could be filed later this month or in early February.
Gov. Mike Beebe would sign such a proposal if it reaches his desk, spokesman Matt DeCample said, even though the Democratic governor said last week that he would also sign a bill outlawing capital punishment.
"We have a law on the books now and no legal mechanism to carry it out," DeCample said. "And that's the expected fix that we will see from the Department of Correction working with the Legislature."
The Arkansas Supreme Court last year did not deem lethal injection or the death penalty unconstitutional. Instead, the high court threw out a 2009 lethal injection law, siding with a group of death row inmates who said it violated part of the state's constitution that deals with separating the branches of government.
That law said death sentences were to be carried out by lethal injection of one or more chemicals that the director of the Department of Correction chooses.
A proposal being drafted by the attorney general's office is expected to call for using one drug in lethal injections instead of a three-drug cocktail.
"By narrowing that drug protocol, we're hoping that would take care of the court's concern that the direction had too much discretion," correction department spokeswoman Shea Wilson said.
Several other states have moved away from the three-drug cocktail, in part because there's of a shortage of drugs used in it.
It's not clear which Arkansas lawmaker will file the bill being drafted by the state attorney general's office, but it won't be the first proposal about executions to come up this legislative session.
Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, has already taken a crack at solving the execution law, though Wilson said his proposal didn't address the drug shortage.
"That bill does not take into account that we can't acquire the drugs defined in that piece of legislation," Wilson said.
Hester, who also filed another bill to allow some relatives of victims to attend executions, said he's willing to work with the attorney general's office and others if there's an objection.
"I just thought, 'Well, if I'm already filing one execution bill, I might as well just be the person that addresses the Supreme Court's concerns as well,' " Hester said.
Arkansas hasn't put anyone to death since 2005 - in part because of legal challenges like the one the state Supreme Court ruled on in June. There are 37 inmates on death row, according to online prison records.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, broadcast or distributed.)