by: The Columbia Daily Tribune
published: 22 June 2012
The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state’s execution law today, calling it unconstitutional.
In a split decision, the high court sided with 10 death row inmates who argued that, under Arkansas’ constitution, only the legislature can set execution policy. Legislators in 2009 voted to give that authority to the Department of Correction.
“It is evident to this court that the legislature has abdicated its responsibility and passed to the executive branch, in this case the (Arkansas Department of Correction), the unfettered discretion to determine all protocol and procedures, most notably the chemicals to be used, for a state execution,” Justice Jim Gunter wrote in the majority opinion.
Two justices of the seven-member court dissented, arguing that the Correction Department’s discretion is not “unfettered” because it is bound by the federal and state constitutions that guard against cruel and unusual punishment.
“In addition, Arkansas is left no method of carrying out the death penalty in cases where it has been lawfully imposed,” Justice Karen Baker wrote in the dissent.