On March 8. 2010, a prisoner scheduled to be executed in Arkansas, filed an action against the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) in the Circuit Court for the County of Pulaski. The Plaintiff, represented by the Federal Defenders, sought an injunction against the state prohibiting his ...
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On March 8. 2010, a prisoner scheduled to be executed in Arkansas, filed an action against the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) in the Circuit Court for the County of Pulaski. The Plaintiff, represented by the Federal Defenders, sought an injunction against the state prohibiting his execution, claiming that the Arkansas Method of Execution Act (MEA), violated the state constitution. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the MEA's removal of standards for lethal injection and 'menu-style' options for the director of the ADC was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority.
In 2008, an injunction had been entered in the U.S. District Court against the ADC prohibiting executions until the execution policy was found to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act. The Act requires a 30 day public comment period before enactment proposed regulations and policies. The ADC had promulgated a detailed execution policy without complying with this provision.
Rather than complying with the Administrative Procedures Act requirements, the Legislature passed a law which gave the Director of the ADC authority to select from several methods of legislatively-sanctioned lethal injection. The plaintiffs filed a suit to enjoin the law as violating Article IV of the Arkansas state constitution, which is a separation-of-powers article. The plaintiffs claimed that the law gave the Director of the ADC unfettered discretion in choosing the method of execution. Plaintiffs further claimed that "[t]he legislative record shows that the Method of Execution Act (MEA) was purposefully designed to avoid the embarrassment of public oversight and the inconvenience of judicial review." Lastly, the plaintiffs claimed that the legislation would allow for 'single-chemical' lethal injections, which were so barbaric that they were not allowed in animal euthanasia.
Several prisoners awaiting execution intervened in the lawsuit.
On December 16, 2010, the Court (Judge Timothy Davis Fox) dismissed claims from several intervenor's complaints in an unpublished order. The separation-of-powers issue was the only issue left for consideration. The plaintiffs and defendants filed cross motions for summary judgment.
On August 29, 2011, in entering a Final Order, the Court found that the MEA was unconstitutional, and ordered that the language granting unlimited authority to the Director of the ADC ("any other chemical or chemicals, including but not limited to") stricken. The Defendants and Plaintiffs both objected to this order, and both filed cross appeals directly to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
On June 22, 2012, the Arkansas Supreme Court (Judge Jim Gunter) entered a published opinion (2012 Ark. 293) finding the law unconstitutional, but that the Circuit Court's Order striking language from the statute did not correct the constitutional infirmity. The Court found that the statute was not severable, and struck down the entire MEA. It then remanded the case to the Circuit Court.
As of this writing (6/26/2012), there have been no further developments in this case.Blase Kearney - 06/26/2012