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Arkansas Supreme Court Rules Execution Law Unconstitutional

by Jane Susskind, published

Friday morning, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the state's execution law was unconstitutional.

The AP reports:

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.

Justice Jim Gunter wrote in the majority opinion:

"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 dissented, siding on the side of the Department of Corrections, arguing that the department is still bound by federal law 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."

It is still unclear what will happen to the 40 prisoners on death row.

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