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Arkansas could resume executions soon after buying drugs

August 13, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (AP) — The Arkansas Department of Correction has bought the drugs needed to resume lethal injections, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday that he expects to be asked soon to schedule the state’s first execution in 10 years.

Department of Correction spokeswoman Cathy Frye said the department purchased the drugs last month and Hutchinson said he expects to see the requests to schedule executions soon.

“I had a conversation with the attorney general yesterday, and I expect you know in the coming week or so one or more requests for a date to be set,” Hutchinson said. “I couldn’t tell you which cases they are, but the indications are there’s one or more that’s in an appropriate setting to have a date set for execution.”

Under a new law passed by the legislature this year, Arkansas does not have to disclose the source of the drugs, as also is the case in several other death penalty states.

According to an invoice, the department of correction spent $24,226 to buy the three drugs needed for lethal injections, including midazolam. That sedative was implicated in troubled executions in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma that went on longer than expected as inmates gasped and made other sounds.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June approved continued use of the drug, rejecting a challenge from three Oklahoma inmates now set to die in September and October.

Arkansas Department of Correction spokeswoman Cathy Frye said Thursday afternoon that she didn’t know how many doses were purchased and the staff with access to the drugs wasn’t immediately available to answer questions.

Department staff declined to say whether the drugs were obtained overseas.

Based on the state’s new protocol and the invoice, it appears Arkansas ordered enough of the drugs to handle eight executions. There are at least 16 doses of each, but the protocol requires that two complete sets of the chemicals be prepared for each execution.

Arkansas will administer midazolam to knock the inmates out, then use vecuronium bromide as a paralytic and then potassium chloride to stop the heart. The paralytic Arkansas purchased expires next June.

The potassium chloride expires in January 2017, and the midazolam expires in April 2017.

Judd Deere, a spokesman for state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said the attorney general’s office has not set a timetable for scheduling execution dates. Eric Nance was the last inmate executed in Arkansas, in 2005.

There are 34 men on death row in Arkansas, including two inmates sentenced this year to die by lethal injection. Eight of those inmates have exhausted their legal appeals.

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Associated Press writer Andrew DeMillo contributed to this report.

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