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Tuesday, Mar. 28, 2017

State Awaits Hearing on Death Penalty

Posted Thursday, July 21, 2016, at 1:02 PM

The state Correction Department has acquired new supplies of a lethal drug used in executions.

The Department's supply of the drug had expired, holding up the state's efforts to execute eight men on death row for whom the governor had set execution dates.

With the announcement that Correction officials had obtained new supplies of the drug, the governor said that he wanted to set new execution dates some time before January.

Now all parties are waiting for the state Supreme Court to rule on a request for a rehearing by the death row inmates.

An attorney for the inmates has said that in addition to seeking a rehearing at the state level, they also will pursue appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Questions about the Arkansas execution law have been raised on two fronts. One is the lawsuit by death row inmates challenging the legality of Act 1096 of 2015, which sets out execution procedures. The state Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the state and against the inmates, and that decision will take effect when the court has ruled on the inmates' request for a rehearing. If the court refuses the request, the attorney general and the governor will take steps to set execution dates.

The other question about Arkansas death penalty protocol has been the availability of the drugs used in lethal injection. On June 30 the Correction Department's supply of vecuronium bromide expired. The department obtained new supplies just last week.

The other two drugs used by Arkansas officials in lethal injection are potassium chloride, which expires in January of 2017, and midazolam, which expires in April of 2017.

The Correction Department operates state prisons and executes inmates condemned to death. The most recent execution in Arkansas took place in 2005.

Act 1096 keeps secret the identity of companies that supply lethal drugs to the Correction Department for executions. Pharmaceutical companies were reluctant to sell the drug because they were concerned about backlash from groups that oppose the death penalty.

The death row inmates immediately challenged Act 1096 when it was approved last year, and that challenge was rejected by the state Supreme Court last month in a split decision.

The governor told the media that the confidentiality clause in Act 1096 was helpful to prison officials in their search for new supplies of vecuronium bromide.

Economic Development Office in Berlin

The governor and the director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission flew to Berlin for the opening of the state's newest overseas office. Arkansas already had economic development offices in China and Japan.

The office will promote trade between Arkansas businesses and Europe. According to the AEDC, five European countries were among our top 20 trading partners last year. They were Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Those five countries accounted for 16.9 percent of all exports from Arkansas. Exports to Germany totaled $102 million in 2015 and imports from Germany to Arkansas totaled $419.9 million. German corporations have more than 30 subsidiaries in Arkansas.

The governor said that one goal of the Berlin office will be to reduce regulatory barriers that hinder Arkansas exports of meat, poultry, rice and commodities. He said that Great Britain's recent vote to leave the European Union puts Arkansas in a position to negotiate better trade deals.



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State Senator Blake Johnson
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Blake Johnson, a resident of Corning, serves District 20 as State Senator in the Arkansas Legislature and was elected in Nov. 2014.
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