Arkansas hasn’t put an inmate to death since 2005 due to roadblocks in procuring lethal injection drugs after a sales ban by major pharmaceutical makers. But last week, a state corrections spokesman said authorities had procured a new supply of the controversial drug midazolam, allowing for the executions to go ahead.
Midazolam is intended to render the inmate unconscious before two other chemicals are administered to paralyze the lungs and stop the heart. But death penalty opponents say the drug is ineffective and causes undue pain and suffering.
“By racing to use a drug known to play a part in botched executions, the governor risks debasing the state of Arkansas, its citizens, and the very American traditions of justice by torturing prisoners to death,” ACLU attorney Brian Stull wrote in a blog post.
Stull cited the botched execution of Arizona man Joseph Wood who, after being given 15 doses of a lethal drug cocktail that included midazolam, gulped and snorted for nearly two hours before dying. He also noted the case of an Alabama man who remained conscious and responsive several minutes into his execution last December.
The suffering caused to inmates by midazolam could be further compounded by human error as a result of a packed execution schedule, Stull wrote, with two inmates slated to be executed on each of April 17, 20, 24 and 27.
Only on one occasion has a state attempted to execute two prisoners on the same day using midazolam — and it didn’t end well. In 2014, Oklahoma authorities aborted the second of two planned executions after the first was severely botched, with victim Clayton Lockett succumbing to a heart attack after squirming and groaning for several minutes, even attempting to rise from the execution platform well after he was declared unconscious.
WATCH: Botched Oklahoma execution reignites death penalty debate
No state has executed more than two men in a single month in the past 20 years and none has performed eight executions in 10 days, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.
It’s an approach that Stull condemns as “assembly line justice.”
“History risks repeating itself when we don’t heed its lessons. We don’t need another state-sanctioned killing to be botched by the use of midazolam or by the reckless clip of Gov. [Asa] Hutchinson’s scheduled killings.”
— With files from Reuters