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The Two-Way
10:50 am
Fri June 22, 2012

Arkansas Supreme Court Rules Execution Law Unconstitutional

In a split decision, the Arkansas Supreme court has ruled that the laws governing executions in the state were unconstitutional.

The court found that only the legislature should control the process and Arkansas had given that power to its department of corrections.

"It is evident to this court that the legislature has abdicated its responsibility and passed to the executive branch, in this case the ADC, the unfettered discretion to determine all protocol and procedures, most notably the chemicals to be used, for a state execution," Associate Justice Jim Gunter wrote for the majority.

The AP reports:

"The 2009 law says a death sentence is to be carried out by lethal injection of one or more chemicals that the director of the Department of Correction chooses. The law also says that in the event that the lethal injection law is found to be unconstitutional, death sentences will be carried out by electrocution.

"It wasn't immediately clear what the court's ruling will mean for the 40 men on death row in Arkansas. There aren't any pending executions, and the state hasn't put anyone to death since 2005, in part because of legal challenges like this one."

Quoting state attorneys and an attorney who challenged the law, the AP reports that Arkansas will revert to the 1983 law that governed executions.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.