The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state’s death penalty law on Friday, faulting a provision that permitted the Corrections Department to select the fatal drugs used in an execution, reported the New York Times.
The court ruled 5 to 2 that the Legislature must set the quantity and type of drugs in a lethal injection. The 2009 law left those decisions to the director of the Corrections Department. The court sided with 10 death row inmates who challenged the law’s constitutionality.
Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for Attorney General Dustin McDaniel of Arkansas, said the state was forming a plan to address the court decision.
Arkansas Justice Jim Gunter wrote that the case came down to a matter of separation of powers. “The Legislature has abdicated its responsibility and passed to the executive branch,” he wrote in the majority opinion, arguing that the law left “unfettered discretion” to corrections officials, reported the Times.
Two justices argued in a dissent that federal bans on “cruel and unusual punishment” are sufficient to ensure a humane execution procedure. “Arkansas is left no method of carrying out the death penalty in cases where it has been lawfully imposed,” Justice Karen Baker wrote, reported the Times.
This decision comes in the wake of a shortage of sodium thiopental one of three drugs used in lethal injection in most states. The three drug cocktail includes an anesthetic to numb the pain, a muscle relaxant to prevent movement and a drug that stops the heart.
A few states, including Ohio, have moved to a single drug protocol and have carried out a number of executions using the single drug.
To read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/23/us/arkansas-justices-strike-down-death-penalty.html?_r=1