Arkansas death row inmates ask for preliminary injunction

Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An attorney for eight Arkansas inmates scheduled to be put to death beginning later this month asked a judge Thursday to rule in their favor before the lawsuit alleging new death penalty procedures are unconstitutional goes to trial.

Attorney Jeff Rosenzweig filed motions in Pulaski County Circuit court saying the state has not adequately proven its case against allegations that the new secrecy law violates a previous settlement agreement the inmates have with the state. He said if a judge doesn't rule in their favor, he should grant a preliminary injunction to protect the inmates' lives.

"The prisoners respectfully request that this Court grant them a preliminary injunction that forbids the (Arkansas Department of Correction) from executing them pursuant to Act 1096 of 2015, or from using its Lethal Injection Procedure, until this Court has time to resolve this case on the merits," Rosenzweig wrote in one of the filings.

Arkansas intends to resume executions Oct. 21 after almost a decade. A new state law allows the department to keep the source of the drugs from the public, but Rosenzweig said Arkansas previously agreed to tell inmates the origin of the lethal drugs when they agreed to drop a part of a previous lawsuit challenging the state's lethal injection laws.

Rosenzweig filed an amended brief in the lawsuit late Monday night alleging the secrecy law was unconstitutional in at least six ways. Several of those objections have been tried in other state courts or in federal court and failed.

He said the Arkansas Constitution prohibits laws from being passed to undermine a contract. The Attorney General's Office agreed to the terms of the settlement, then "acted in bad faith" by working to help draft the new secrecy law, the attorneys argue.

Judd Deere, a spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said the office is reviewing the filing and would not have further comment Thursday.

The lawsuit also calls the use of the specific drugs under the state protocol cruel and unusual punishment and argues that not allowing the inmates to research the manufacturers and the personnel involved in the execution —because of the secrecy law— denies them the right to determine whether the drugs will lead to cruel and unusual punishment.

A circuit court judge moved the hearing date for the inmates' lawsuit from Oct. 23 to Oct. 7 earlier this week.

Midazolam, the sedative in Arkansas' three-drug procedure, gained notoriety after being used during executions that took longer than expected last year in Missouri, Ohio and Oklahoma, though the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the drug's use in executions in June.

The Associated Press this month identified the three pharmaceutical companies that likely made Arkansas' execution drugs, all of which said they object to their drugs being used in executions. One of the companies has said it is pressing the Arkansas Department of Correction for information but hasn't heard back.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson scheduled the eight inmates to be executed on four dates starting on Oct. 21, meaning all would be double executions if the courts don't intervene.