Arkansas Death Penalty News

Started by Jeff1857, October 03, 2007, 01:05:28 PM

previous topic - next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Go Down


October 03, 2007, 01:05:28 PM Last Edit: May 24, 2008, 12:22:27 AM by Jeff1857
Beebe may set execution date as Supreme Court debates

Gov. Mike Beebe remains open to setting an execution date for a death-row inmate, though the U.S. Supreme Court will weigh a case on whether lethal injection - the execution method used by Arkansas - is cruel and unusual punishment.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Beebe said he'd let courts "take their normal route" in deciding whether to issue a stay for an inmate with a scheduled execution this month. However, Beebe left open the possibility of scheduling an execution for another inmate, Don Davis, while the high court deliberates.

"The normal procedure I think is, we do that and that obviously, you wait the stays that inevitably come from the judicial proceeding," Beebe said. "That's the normal course. We haven't done anything yet."

At least a dozen states using lethal injections put their executions on hold because legal challenges to the procedure similar to Supreme Court's case brought by two death-row inmates in Kentucky. They claim the mix of drugs used in Arkansas and many of the 36 other states performing lethal injections violates the ban on cruel and unusual punishment in the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In Arkansas, only inmate Jack Harold Jones faces a set execution date, scheduled for Oct. 16. Jones told the state Parole Board in September he did "own" responsibility for the 1991 rape and slaying of Bald Knob bookkeeper Mary Phillips and an attack on her 11-year-old daughter.

Beebe acknowledged that his office received a letter from the state attorney general saying there was no legal hurdle to setting an execution date for Davis. Sentenced to death for the 1990 killing of Jane Daniels of Rogers, Davis faced a scheduled 2006 execution date, but later received a stay from a federal judge.

Both Jones, 43, and Davis, 44, have signed on to a lawsuit by Arkansas death-row inmate Terrick Nooner similar to the one before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Their suit involves the 3 drugs used in Arkansas to executed inmates - an anesthetic, a muscle paralyzer and a substance to stop the heart. The suit claims that, if a condemned prisoner is not given enough anesthetic, he can suffer "excruciating pain" without being able to cry out.

Beebe, a Democrat and former state attorney general, issued a temporary reprieve on the day of Nooner's scheduled September execution because of federal stays. However, the state attorney general's office had petitioned the Supreme Court to lift 2 stays.

"Obviously, we complied with the previous stay order on Mr. Nooner and await any information on Mr. Jones," Beebe said. "Obviously, Mr. Davis would fall into the same category if we set an execution date."


LITTLE ROCK (WHBQ FOX13 -  --  Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said Thursday the state will begin executing death-row inmates by lethal injection in light of a failed U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the death penalty.

Speaking to reporters, Beebe said Attorney General Dustin McDaniel will offer a few changes to the protocol surrounding Arkansas executions, and he expects to begin receiving death warrants from McDaniel's office within the next 30 days for inmates who have exhausted their court appeals.

Beebe's announcement comes after a Thursday morning meeting with McDaniel and after the governor says he listened to a group that had asked him to abolish the death penalty. Beebe said he felt legally bound as the state's top executive to carry out capital punishment as prescribed by the courts.

"Nobody does this lightly, but it is the law," Beebe said.

The slight "protocol adjustments" that Arkansas will make to its state's lethal injection rules, he said, likely are not required by the recent Supreme Court decision in a Kentucky case but Arkansas officials want to be sure to act within the law.

Death-row inmates Don William Davis and Jack Harold Jones Jr. both joined a lawsuit by death-row inmate Terrick Nooner mirroring a complaint that justices examined from two condemned prisoners in Kentucky. Federal court stays, put in place as the U.S. Supreme Court weighed the Kentucky case, continued to block the execution of the three in Arkansas.

Last month, the high court issued a 7-2 ruling saying the Kentucky prisoners failed to show that the risk involved in that state's use of three drugs in executing prisoners and the state's refusal to try untested alternatives constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Arkansas uses similar drugs during its executions -- an anesthetic, a muscle paralyzer and a substance to stop the heart.

Only Nooner, 37, has a separate, ongoing federal challenge to his conviction.

Thursday, the governor said he did not know how many death row inmates would be immediately in line for execution. Beebe signed three death warrants since becoming governor in January 2007, the same executions that were set for Nooner, Davis and Jones and halted because of the Kentucky case.

"I don't think there's ever been a governor, and certainly I'm not one, who doesn't take very, very serious and deep concern about signing a death warrant," Beebe said. "It's probably as difficult as just about anything you would want to do."

Overall, 40 men are on death row at the state's Varner Unit. Arkansas has executed 27 death-row inmates since the Supreme Court allowed states to resume executions in 1976. The state's last execution took place in 2005, when officials executed condemned killer Eric Nance.
Let's roll Arkansas!!!!  ;)


A death row inmate who may be the next person scheduled to die in Arkansas after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling upheld lethal injection has challenged the state's plans to carry out the death penalty under a revised protocol.

Frank Williams Jr. filed a lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court, saying state officials violated state law by adopting new regulations without giving the public notice and an opportunity to comment on proposed revisions.

Williams is seeking a court ruling that the revised Arkansas plan is invalid and should not be enforced.

Last month, the Supreme Court said in a case brought by Kentucky death row inmates that the prisoners failed to show the state's refusal to try untested alternatives constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Scheduled executions that had been put on hold in several states, including Arkansas, were then up for reconsideration.
Don't think it will take long to say......DENIED.


May 23, 2008, 01:45:58 PM Last Edit: May 24, 2008, 12:24:39 AM by Jeff1857
Arkansas death-row inmate joins lethal-injection challenge

An Arkansas death-row inmate likely to first face execution after a failed U.S. Supreme Court challenge to lethal injection has joined a lawsuit challenging the state's execution method.

Lawyers for Frank Williams Jr., 41, have added him to a suit by three other death-row inmates, which claims the state's execution method is cruel and unusual punishment. An order filed Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright reopened the case, put on hold as the Supreme Court weighed a similar challenge.

However, Wright said lawyers for Don Williams Davis, Jack Harold Jones Jr., Terrick Nooner and Williams need to show the need for the suit before any hearings are scheduled.

Williams has another lawsuit filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court challenging changes to the state's execution method. The state attorney general's office has said Williams has no court cases blocking his execution.

(source: Associated Press)
Why don't they just have the hearing and get it over with already?


Ark. AG asks Beebe to set execution date for Williams

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has asked Gov. Mike Beebe to set an execution date for convicted killer Frank Williams Jr., aiming to make him the 1st death row inmate in the state executed since a failed U.S. Supreme Court challenge to lethal injection.

McDaniel asked Beebe to set the date in a letter received Thursday, a spokesman for Beebe's office said Monday.

Williams received a death sentence after being convicted of fatally shooting farmer Clyde Spence of Bradley during a 1992 robbery. Williams had been fired earlier from a prison work-release job at Spence's farm.

Arkansas has executed 27 death-row inmates since the Supreme Court allowed states to resume executions in 1976. The state's last execution took place in 2005, when officials executed condemned killer Eric Nance.
Looks like Arkansas RSVP'd to the party.


LITTLE ROCK - Executioners administering lethal injections in Arkansas will follow methods used by "medical paraprofessionals" to ensure that condemned inmates are unconscious before delivering the two final drugs to carry out the death penalty, a revised state protocol says.

The state attorney general's office offered the revised lethal injection procedures as part of an effort to lift federal court stays of execution against inmates challenging the method.

The new procedure, dated May 22, also adds mixing the three drugs used in Arkansas executions in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications and the "already existing practice" that executioners have at least two years of medical experience.

"The measures remove any substantial foreseeable risk of wanton infliction of pain during executions carried out by the state of Arkansas," the federal filing by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel reads.

Under Arkansas' new execution rules, either the state's deputy director of prisons or another staffer will check an inmate for "movement, opened eyes, eyelash reflex and response to verbal commands and physical stimuli." The next two drugs will be administered only if the inmate has no response and three minutes have passed since the injection of the anesthetic, the protocol states.

Gov. Mike Beebe has signed three death warrants since 2007, setting execution dates for inmates Don William Davis, Jack Harold Jones Jr. and Terrick Nooner. But Davis and Jones both joined a lawsuit by Nooner mirroring a complaint that U.S. Supreme Court justices examined from two condemned prisoners in Kentucky.

The high court issued a 7-2 ruling saying the Kentucky prisoners failed to show the state's refusal to try untested alternatives constituted cruel and unusual punishment. However, the court stays remain in place as the men's attorneys have requested time to refile their objections.

After the Supreme Court ruling, Beebe said the state would change its lethal injection procedures before conducting any other executions. Arkansas, like Kentucky, is one of roughly three dozen states that use three drugs _ an anesthetic, a muscle paralyzer and a substance to stop the heart _ to kill death-row inmates.

An attorney for Jones had previously derided Arkansas' method for checking an inmate's consciousness as "a tap-and-shot method taught in CPR courses." McDaniel's court filing says Kentucky only requires guards to look over an inmate to ensure they are unconscious.

"The protections against unnecessary pain in Arkansas' protocol not only meet but exceed the protections found in the undeniably constitutional Kentucky protocol," McDaniel wrote.

Forty men are on death-row at the state's Varner Unit. Arkansas has executed 27 inmates since the Supreme Court allowed states to resume executions in 1976. The state's last execution took place in 2005, when officials executed condemned killer Eric Nance.

Since the Supreme Court decision, McDaniel has already asked Beebe to set an execution date for death-row inmate Frank Williams Jr., 41. William later asked the federal court to add him into the other inmates' challenge to lethal injection.
Well I think Arkansas ought to go ahead and set a date to check out their new procedures.  ;)


McDaniel Asks For Help In Death Penalty Appeals

In Little Rock, federal public defenders with deep pockets are straining Arkansas' ability to manage the number of death penalty appeals its lawyers have to handle, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel says.

"We are in a serious situation with regard to our ability to litigate capitol habeaus cases," the attorney general told the legislative Joint Budget Committee last week. "The public defender has unlimited resources and has taken a unique course in Arkansas to select state cases ... for their resources to be dedicated to."

Unlike many federal court jurisdictions, Arkansas allows federal public defenders to represent state death-row inmates, McDaniel said.

The attorney general said he has inquired of Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., what needs to be done to prohibit the practice in Arkansas, but he also asked the budget panel for an additional $400,000 to hire as many as two more attorneys and 2 investigators to help handle the caseload.

Separate legislation filed last week would designate the attorney general's office as a law enforcement agency, giving McDaniel's investigators access to the state's crime information network.

Before the budget committee, McDaniel asked lawmakers to approve Senate Bill 86 by Sen. Steve Faris, D-Malvern, that would appropriate $400,000 to his office this year from funds budgeted for the attorney general's office next fiscal year.

"I'm to the point of potentially losing lawyers who are so overtaxed that if they don't get some help they're talking about having to find another course of employment," McDaniel told lawmakers.

His office has 6 attorneys who handle death penalty cases.

Because the bill involves new employees, it was referred to the budget panel's personnel subcommittee.

Also last week, Sen. Robert Thompson, D-Paragould, filed Senate Bill 112, which would designate the attorney general's office a law enforcement agency.

Thompson said the legislation, filed at McDaniel's request, would allow attorney general's staff access to the Arkansas Crime Information Center. Only law enforcement agencies have access to the center under state law.

"In order to do a criminal background check on witnesses, in order do a criminal background check, you have to be a designated law enforcement agency," Thompson said. "This really is a cleanup bill because the federal government has already ruled, or decided, that the Arkansas attorney general's office is a law enforcement agency and allows NCIC (National Crime Information Computer) checks." Some 40 inmates are on death row in Arkansas, and about 35 of them are represented by the federal public defender, McDaniel said.

The past 2 years, McDaniel said, were especially busy for the attorneys on his staff who handle death penalty appeals.

Last fall, he said, his office was forced to depose an Australian who argued that based on his viewing of a video showing a convicted murderer's slaying of the victim, he believed the suspect was 2 inches shorter than the person condemned to death for the killing.

"This despite the video, the trial, the accomplices' testimony and testimony of the defendant," McDaniel said.

In 2007, after a federal judge issued stays in three executions set by the governor, the attorney general announced a voluntary moratorium on appealing federal court-ordered stays of executions until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a Kentucky case challenging lethal injection.

In a 7-2 decision last May, the nation's highest court ruled that the 2 Kentucky death-row inmates who filed the lawsuit failed to show the procedure constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Lethal injection is the most common method of execution in the United States.

Senate Bill 112 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Julie Brain, chief of the federal public defenders' office in Little Rock, declined comment last week.

(source: The Morning News)


Lawyer: Ark. lethal injection policies unsound

Arkansas has yet to prove that its lethal injection procedures are constitutional, as the state's policies allow for "the infliction of hideous pain and suffering," court filings by a federal public defender claim.

The filings to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis were on behalf of four death-row inmates spared execution until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a similar case from Kentucky. Now, the men's lawyers hope to spare them again by asking the appeals court to allow a lawsuit challenging the state's procedure to continue, even though the nation's highest court found Kentucky's execution methods constitutional last year.

In court documents, federal public defender Julie Brain claimed the state covers up the condemned's body with a sheet during lethal injection - blocking executioners' view of intravenous lines. Executioners also might use backup IV lines if something goes wrong without first readministering the anesthetic used in the 3-drug cocktail, Brain wrote.

In both situations, the inmate would suffer "constitutionally unacceptable" extreme pain, she wrote.

"The prisoner may then regain consciousness and he will then experience the agonizing burning of the potassium chloride and the buried-alive suffocation of the pancuronmium bromide," Brain wrote. State policy "presents a substantial risk that precisely this terrible series of events will occur."

Dina Tyler, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Correction, said the condemned inmate's arms are clearly visible during the execution. Tyler said Brain's assertion came only from a post-mortem photograph taken of an executed prisoner. Tyler said guards pulled the sheet up over the inmate's arms "out of respect."

As far as restarting the drug cocktail, Tyler said the dosage given to the inmate is fatal by itself. Any trouble with the IV lines would be noticed by either the executioners or guards in the death chamber, she said.

"After the 1st drug is administered, the condemned inmate is out," Tyler said. "They will not wake up. They will not recover."

Brain also cited what he said was a history of "botched" executions conducted in Arkansas, including the January 1992 execution of Rickey Ray Rector. Rector, 40, could be heard groaning off and on for almost 20 minutes before workers pulled back the curtain shielding the execution chamber.

An autopsy conducted on Rector later found 10 puncture marks where the execution team tried inserting IV lines. The report also shows executioners likely used a cut-down procedure - cutting into muscle - on part of the skin from his right arm to find a vein for the IV line.

While a state official has said executioners will not cut through muscle to find an inmate's veins in the future, Brain said inmates could still face the painful procedure.

Brain also questioned the layout of the execution chamber. Executioners sit in a separate room, observing the inmate through glass and operating the IV lines snaked through an opening. Syringes with the 3-drug cocktail also are labeled only with numbers, not the names of the drugs inside, Brain said.

Arkansas death-row inmates Don William Davis, Jack Harold Jones, Terrick Nooner and Frank Williams Jr. are all parties in the suit before the 8th Circuit. Brain asked the appeals court to overturn a decision by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright that dismissed the inmates' suit.

Wright found Arkansas' execution policies "substantially similar" to the execution procedure in Kentucky, which was approved in a landmark Supreme Court decision in April 2007. Arkansas prison officials updated the state's lethal injection protocol after the Supreme Court case, setting experience guidelines for execution. The policy also requires executioners to check for fluttering eyelids and shake condemned inmates to ensure they are unconscious before delivering the 2 final drugs.

All 4 inmates faced execution dates after Wright's rulling, but they were later stopped by various legal challenges. A separate suit by Williams over whether the state prison system should have notified the public when changing its lethal-injection procedures has effectively stopped executions in Arkansas.

(source: Associated Press)
These 2 cases need to be settle and let Arkansas get back to business.


Bill on executions heads to Senate

The Arkansas House of Representatives approved legislation Wednesday that will likely speed the resumption of at least one execution in the state if it becomes law.

"We're not here today to argue about the death penalty," Sheridan Democrat Bobby Pierce said, but "to figure out the most humane way to carry it out." His House Bill 1706 later passed 79-11.

The legislation codifies the three-drug protocol recently approved by the U.S. Supreme Court into state law and exempts the execution process from the state's Administrative Procedure Act and the Freedom of Information Act, shielding it from public review or participation.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, Department of Correction officials and Gov. Mike Beebe asked him to sponsor the bill, Pierce said.

Prison officials have said they will maintain the current chemical protocol and public scrutiny of executions, but the bill leaves both up to the Department of Correction's director.

Opponents have said that puts too much power in the director's hands and prevents public scrutiny of procedures for state-sanctioned killings.

It would also likely render moot a lawsuit pending before the Arkansas Supreme Court by condemned murderer Frank Williams Jr., which contends that the state's execution protocol is illegal because it wasn't subject to the Administrative Procedure Act, according McDaniel's chief deputy. The Administrative Procedure Act would subject it to scrutiny by the General Assembly and the public.

Williams had been scheduled for a September 2008 execution before a Pulaski County judge found in his favor.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

(source: Arkansas Democrat & Gazette)


The legislative session is winding down and committee meetings at the State Capitol are becoming longer and longer, so legislators can consider as many bills as possible. The Senate Judiciary Committee did not even break for lunch Wednesday so they could debate a bill regarding lethal injection.

The bill does not debate the legality of lethal injection or the death penalty itself; but it does debate how much power the head of the department of corrections should have over the proceedings; and how much information should be made public about the execution.

Some at the senate judiciary committee said executing someone is one of the most important issues a state deals with.

House Bill 1706 is designed to clarify the existing procedures for lethal injection. It states the procedure must be carried out by injecting one or more chemicals. It allows the director of the department of corrections to determine which kind and the amount.

The state's current policy is to use a mix of three chemicals in executions; but the attorney general's office wants the law to say one or more can be used in case the director changes his mind someday on what to use.

The bill also calls for freedom of information exemptions for how the execution is carried out, what chemicals are used, and security details like where armed guards will be stationed during execution.

Some committee members took issue with not disclosing which chemicals are used; something the DOC does currently.

Senator Jim Luker from Wynne told the crowd, "This is a sacred thing to a lot of people; freedom of information, when you start exempting folks from it it raises all kinds of antennas; that's what's troubling me here."

Senator Ruth Whitaker from Cedarville said, "As long as we trust these people, medical examiners and everyone, the public trusts us God love them most of the time, but why we are pursuing this when I don't think it's anything we need to know or that the press needs to know what kind of injection was used?"

After hours of debate, Representative Bobby Pierce of Sheridan pulled the bill down to make changes to it. Representative Pierce says he might take out the part that keeps the public from learning the mix of the execution chemicals. That way he thinks the measure will pass.

This bill was filed on behalf of Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, whose office is dealing with several lawsuits filed by some death row inmates concerning execution procedures.


LITTLE ROCK -- All state policies and procedures applicable to carrying out an execution, except the chemicals involved, would be exempt from public scrutiny under a measure a Senate committee endorsed Wednesday.

House Bill 1706 by Rep. Bobby Pierce, D-Sheridan, advanced with a 6-2 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee and now goes to the full Senate.

"All we want is the tools so we can do (the execution) in a quick, painless and humane manner," Prison Director Larry Norris told the committee.

The bill originally would have exempted all death penalty procedures and policies, but the panel endorsed an amendment Wednesday that would require public disclosure of the chemicals used in the legal injection process.

Sen. Robert Thompson, D-Paragould, who presented the amendment, said the chemicals used are already released in court filings by death row inmates. 


"We can certainly live with it, and make the situation work with the amendment," Norris said.

The prison director said everything in the policy and rules directly related to security.

Rita Sklar, executive director of the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, spoke against the bill, saying all the information should be public.

Under the bill, information about how witnesses are chosen, whether the inmate had access to a spiritual advisor and the route the warden and prison director took to the death chamber would all be exempt from the state Freedom of Information Act.

"What part of this should the public not know?" asked attorney John Burnett, a member of the ACLU board.

He and Sklar held up a 20-page copy of the policies and procedures used in executions from 1996.

"I can't conceive why in an open society like this one would want to keep this in the dark," Burnett said.

After the meeting, prison spokeswoman Dina Tyler said the document Sklar and Burnett had at the meeting has been changed and updated several times since 1996.


Arkansas Supreme Court to consider lethal injection lawsuit halting state executions

The Arkansas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments May 28 in a lawsuit over the state's lethal injection protocols.

Justices will hear the suit by death-row inmate Frank Williams Jr. at 9 a.m. in the courtroom at the state's Justice Building. Williams' suit, focused on whether the state should have provided notice and public hearings when changing its execution procedures, is the last legal impediment to resuming executions in the state.

Legislators this year passed a bill exempting the lethal injection protocols from those rules.

Justice Elana Cunningham Wills has recused from Williams' case. Special Judge Stuart Jackson will hear the case in her place.

(source: Associated Press)


LITTLE ROCK -- The Arkansas Supreme Court said Thursday it wants more information about a new state law regarding lethal injection procedures before it considers a condemned killer's lawsuit challenging the process.

The court postponed the May 28 oral arguments in death-row inmate Frank Williams Jr.'s lawsuit challenging the lethal injection process, saying it wants to determine whether the law makes his argument moot.

As the lawyers respond to the Supreme Court's request, justice also have received a handwritten request from death-row inmate Rickey Dale Newman, 51, asking the court to stop all hearings in his case. Newman said Brain, who is also his public defender, opposed his ending his appeals, but he felt it was "the only and right thing" to do.

"I am not part of the stupid lawsuit against the death penalty," Newman wrote. "I know the death penalty is the right thing for Arkansas."

Newman was convicted of capital murder for the mutilation death of Marie Cholette, 46, of Fort Worth, Texas, at a transient camp near Van Buren. After his 2002 conviction, Newman waived his appeals, but his lawyers stopped his scheduled execution. Newman then changed his mind and said he wanted to appeal.

Williams, convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in the 1992 shooting death of Bradley farmer Clyde Spence, filed the lawsuit last year arguing the state Department of Correction failed to comply with the state Administrative Procedures Act when it adopted rules regarding lethal injection without taking public comments.

The department adopted the rules following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of lethal injection in a Kentucky case.

Gov. Mike Beebe later set a Sept. 9 execution date for Williams, but the execution was halted when Pulaski County Circuit Judge Timothy Fox ruled for Williams in the inmate's lawsuit, saying the new execution procedures should have been subjected to pubic review.

The state appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

During this year's legislative session, lawmakers approved Act 1296 of 2009, which declared all the procedures used in the lethal injection process exempt from the state Administrative Procedures Act, except for the types of chemicals used in the actual lethal injection.

In Thursday's three-page order, the high court noted the state, in its appeal of Fox's ruling, argued that because Act 1296 went into effect April 13, Williams argument is moot.

"We do not consider that motion moot at this juncture and hold it in abeyance until this case is submitted for decision," the Supreme Court said in the order. "We agree with Williams that an opportunity for supplemental briefing on the effect of Act 1296 should be afforded the parties in this case."

The high court went on to ask the state and Williams' federal public defender to answer three questions, including whether Act 1296 resolves "the issue facing this court in the instant appeal so as to render these issue moot?"

The order also instructed the court clerk to set up a briefing schedule and another oral argument date.

Special Justice Stuart Jackson sat in for Justice Elana Cunningham Wills, who recused from the case.

The state's last execution took place in 2005, when officials executed condemned killer Eric Nance. The state has executed 27 death-row inmates since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to resume executions in 1976.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
They need to decide this already!!!  >:(


Ark. lethal injection suit to be heard in October

Whether Arkansas resumes executing death-row inmates could hinge on how justices on the state's highest court read 5 words.

Those 5 words -- "is to be carried out" -- sit near the beginning of a new law aimed at rendering the lawsuit over lethal injection by death-row inmate Frank Williams Jr. moot. State lawyers say it shows the law applies to all 40 men now awaiting execution on death row. However, Williams' lawyers have told the state Supreme Court that the law can't be applied retroactively in his case.

The high court has scheduled oral arguments for Oct. 8 in Williams' case, which has stalled executions in the state for a year. But if justices agree with state lawyers, they can issue a ruling beforehand to set the stage for Arkansas' first lethal injection since 2005.

Federal public defenders representing Williams filed the lawsuit in 2008, as their client faced a scheduled execution date. They argued the state prison system failed to follow a requirement that state agencies offer notifications and hold public hearings when they made changes to administrative rules. The prison system had altered its execution protocols without following those rules.

A lower court judge issued an injunction halting Williams' execution and the case quickly made its way to the state's highest court. While there, lawmakers this year passed a law freeing the state prison system from following the public notification and hearing rule when it came to execution procedures.

In filings to the court, Assistant Attorney General C. Joseph Cordi Jr. wrote that the new law specifically says that an execution "is to be carried out" by lethal injection. By using that phrase, Cordi said lawmakers declared their intention to have the new law apply to all those awaiting execution on the state's death row, regardless of when they were convicted.

"The act on its face is crystal clear that it applies to every inmate to be executed by lethal injection after the date of the statue's enactment," Cordi wrote.

Cordi said other aspects of Williams' suit, like challenging the 3-drug cocktail used in the lethal injection, also were addressed in the new law.

"An amendment that resolves the merits of a death-row inmate's claim moots the claim despite the inmate's hope to delay or avoid his execution through further litigation," he wrote in another filing.

Julie Brain, a federal public defender representing Williams, wrote that justices should find that the new law can't be applied to Williams now.

The state's "assertion that the lethal injection procedures 'are the same regardless of when a particular condemned inmate received his or her capital sentence ...' merely begs the question of whether the act may be retroactively applied," she wrote. "The answer to which, under this court's precedents, is a resounding 'no.'"

Justices previously scheduled oral arguments over Williams' lawsuit for May, but postponed the hearing and requested lawyers address how the new law affected the case. The Supreme Court scheduled the new oral argument hearing date last week.

The state has executed 27 death-row inmates since the Supreme Court allowed states to resume executions in 1976. The state's last execution took place in 2005, when officials executed condemned killer Eric Nance.

Williams, 43, previously faced a 2008 execution date that Gov. Mike Beebe postponed because of a lower court injunction issued over the lawsuit.

Williams was given the death penalty over the 1992 killing of Lafayette County farmer Clyde Spence. Spence had hoped Williams, a work-release prisoner at his farm, would one day serve as a farm foreman. However, after Spence fired him, Williams returned to the farm at night and shot him to death with a .25-caliber pistol.

(source: Associated Press)

heidi salazar

I love the COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA! Would you like the chair

or LI?

No BS in Virginia...if you don't pick you get LI!

Go Up