State Supreme Court rejects challenge to lethal injection procedure

Started by ScoopD (aka: Pam), October 29, 2009, 04:28:25 PM

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ScoopD (aka: Pam)

State Supreme Court rejects challenge to lethal injection procedure
By John Lyon
Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK -- The state Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a lower court to dismiss a lawsuit that had put executions effectively on hold in Arkansas.

In a unanimous decision, the state's highest court ruled that Frank Williams Jr.'s lawsuit against the Arkansas Department of Correction is moot and directed a Pulaski County circuit judge to dismiss the lawsuit and lift an injunction on Williams' execution.

Williams, sentenced to die for the October 1992 slaying of Lafayette County farmer Clyde Spence, filed his lawsuit last year. He alleged the Department of Correction failed to comply with the Arkansas Administrative Procedures Act when it adopted rules regarding lethal injection without subjecting the rules to public review and accepting public comments, as required by the act.

In August 2008, a Pulaski County circuit judge ruled in favor of Williams and granted an injunction blocking his execution. No executions have taken place in the state since that ruling.
Earlier this year the state Legislature approved Act 1296 of 2009, which writes the state's lethal projection procedure into law and declares that the procedure is exempt from the Administrative Procedures Act.

In its appeal of the circuit judge's ruling, the state attorney general's office argued that the new law rendered Williams' arguments moot. Williams argued that the law does not specifically state that it is to be applied retroactively, to people sentenced to death before it went into effect.

Williams also claimed the law is flawed because it is not specific enough in setting out the lethal injection procedure. The law leaves him in uncertainty as to whether he will be subjected to a manner of execution that causes pain, thereby increasing his punishment, he argued.
In its opinion Thursday, the Supreme Court said retroactivity is not an issue.

"There was no need for the General Assembly to state that the act may be applied retroactively, because the act will not be 'retroactively' applied but will instead apply to all executions held after the act's enactment, including Williams'," Justice Jim Gunter wrote in the opinion.
Because it found that the law applies to Williams and renders his lawsuit moot, the court said it did not need to consider his other arguments.

Phone messages left at the attorney general's office and the federal public defenders office were not immediately returned Thursday.

<br /><br />If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. -Thomas Paine<br /><br />My reason for supporting capital punishment: My cousin 16 yr. old Amanda Greenwell was murdered in March of 2004 at the hands of serial killer Jeremy Bryan Jones.

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