35 men on Arkansas’s death row are now closer than anyone in the state has been in years to receiving a lethal injection. Governor Asa Hutchinson told reporters on Thursday he could soon begin scheduling execution dates.
“I expect in the coming week or so, one or more requests for dates to be set," said Hutchinson. "I couldn’t tell you which cases they are but the indications are there’s one or more that is in an appropriate setting to have a date set for execution.”
The Republican governor said he’s been in talks with Attorney General Leslie Rutledge this week and understands requests from her office to set execution dates are expected “in the near future.” Hutchinson said he has not “thought of the time frames yet” but his response will come quickly, “once I get a request we’ll set a date.”
Arkansas has not carried out the death penalty in 10 years with legal battles ensnaring access to drugs used for execution. However, a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision approved of a controversial sedative used in a troublesome execution in Oklahoma. Arkansas’s Legislature also passed a law this year to keep secret the suppliers of lethal injection drugs. The Department of Correction confirmed purchasing a trio of drugs at the beginning of this week.
Hutchinson said he’s not yet sure how the decision to schedule someone’s death will weigh on him.
“I’ve been in law enforcement a long time but I haven’t thought about. I think it’s prema…, it’s a serious thing. My objectives in life, in terms of these types of cases, is that you assure that the system works,” Hutchinson said.
The governor said it’s his duty to carry out the law and respect the decision of juries that imposed the sentences. He also cautioned that this is just the beginning of what could be a lengthy process.
“I understand there will be additional challenges,” he said. “But it’s important to have a date set because that keeps the process moving, so that ultimately the law can be faithfully carried out.”