LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) - Arkansas has bought drugs it plans to use for lethal injections, officials said on Wednesday, as it looks to end a decade-long hiatus on executions that is the longest of any Southern U.S. state.
Arkansas law allows information on the drugs used in executions and the vendors supplying them to remain secret.
Local reports said the drugs included midazolam, a sedative death penalty opponents had challenged as inappropriate for executions, arguing it cannot even achieve the level of unconsciousness required for surgery.
On June 29, the Supreme Court found the drug did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, a ruling that provoked a caustic debate among the justices about the death penalty.
The Arkansas attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, acknowledged through a spokesman that the chemicals planned for use in Arkansas were on hand but declined further comment. The Arkansas Department of Correction did not return a call seeking comment.
Eight of the 35 men on Arkansas’s death row, 20 of whom are black, have exhausted all their appeals, according to Rutledge.
It is the attorney general’s responsibility to ask the governor to set execution dates, but Judd Deere, Rutledge’s press secretary, said she had “no timetable to offer on that at this time.”
Arkansas has not put to death a condemned inmate in 10 years. Appeals by death row prisoners and legal disputes over the constitutionality of drugs and procedures in capital cases have idled the Arkansas death chamber since 2005, when Eric Nance, 45, was put to death by lethal injection.
Earlier this year, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law a measure giving prison officials the option of using a single large dose of barbiturate or a combination of three drugs to cause death.
Midazolam has been used in Florida and Oklahoma, where a troubled execution last year prompted the Supreme Court challenge.
The drug is also used in Ohio and Arizona, which do not have any executions currently planned for the rest of the year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which monitors U.S. capital punishment.
States with the death penalty have been scrambling to find chemicals for lethal injection mixes for the past several years after pharmaceutical companies, mostly in Europe, banned sales of drugs previously used in executions for ethical reasons.
Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Eric Walsh