lethal injection

Arkansas Death Chamber Lethal Injection
Department of Correction

It’s now up to U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker to decide whether Arkansas’s lethal injection protocol inflicts unconstitutional pain and suffering on condemned inmates. For eight days she has heard arguments and testimony in the lawsuit by a group of death row inmates who allege the sedative midazolam, which is the first of three drugs used, is not effective at keeping inmates unconscious when subsequent drugs shut down the body.

Wendy Kelley
Arkansas Public Media

A federal trial regarding Arkansas’s use of the sedative midazolam in lethal injections is wrapping up. On Wednesday, just over a week since the trial began, attorneys for the state called their final witness. Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley is named along with Gov. Asa Hutchinson as a defendant in the lawsuit by a group of death row inmates who claim the drug isn’t enough to keep inmates unconscious during the process.

Varner Arkansas Department of Correction Cummins Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Attorneys defending the state in a lawsuit by Arkansas death row inmates challenging the use of a drug in lethal injections called a series of officials to the stand Tuesday who witnessed executions carried out two years ago. They included the warden who organized the executions, a former prosecutor and two state senators, with all testifying that the inmates did not seem to experience any pain.

Little Rock federal courthouse
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Attorneys for the state began calling witnesses Monday in a lawsuit brought by 18 Arkansas death row inmates who are challenging the use of the drug midazolam in lethal injections. Testimony by a pharmacologist and an anesthesiologist directly contradicted witnesses in similar positions and testified last week for the plaintiffs.

Federal courthouse
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An anesthesiologist testified Friday in the lawsuit brought by a group of Arkansas death row inmates that two of the prisoners who were put to death in 2017 likely suffered "excruciating" pain because of the first drug used in the state’s lethal injection process. Dr. Gail Van Norman from Seattle said that’s because midazolam has no significant clinical anesthetic effects.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson says the state is reviewing drug options for lethal injections following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Monday morning.

The court ruled 5-4 to allow Oklahoma to continue to use Midazolam, a sedative that inmates had argued may not prevent pain in lethal injections because it is not a barbiturate.

Hutchinson spoke to press at the Capitol shortly after the ruling.