A federal lawsuit by death row inmates has renewed a court fight over whether the sedative Arkansas uses for lethal injections causes torturous executions, two years after the state raced to put eight convicted killers to death in 11 days before a previous batch of the drug expired, reports the Associated Press. Arkansas has expanded the secrecy surrounding its lethal injection drug sources, and the case heading to trial Tuesday could affect its efforts to restart executions that have been on hold due to a lack of the drugs. It will be the latest in a series of battles over midazolam, a sedative that other states have avoided using amid claims it doesn’t render inmates fully unconscious during lethal injections.
States that want to avoid unnecessarily inhumane executions will be watching closely, said Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center, which has criticized the way states carry out the death penalty. He added that, “states that are watching because they want to figure out how to … execute people will be looking to see what Arkansas is able to get away with.” Only four of the eight executions scheduled in Arkansas in 2017 happened, with courts halting the others. The state currently doesn’t have any executions scheduled, and Arkansas’ supply of the three drugs used in its lethal injection process has expired. As of now, only one death row inmate has exhausted all his appeals. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says the inmates in the case have a very high burden to meet. Last month, in the case of a Missouri death row inmate, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch said the Constitution “does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death.”