The Arkansas Senate [official website] on Thursday approved revisions to the state's lethal injection law. The Arkansas Supreme Court [official website] struck down the 2009 version of the law [JURIST report] last year, finding that a provision allowing the state department of corrections to choose the drug for lethal injection violates the separation of powers in the Arkansas constitution [text]. Since the Supreme Court ruling, lawmakers have tried to craft more specific death penalty legislation. The proposal approved by the Senate on Friday would require death sentences be carried out with a lethal dose of a barbiturate. Governor Mike Beebe [official website] told reporters that he would sign the law [AP report] if it was passed despite his personal objection to the death penalty.
The shortage of sodium thiopental, a drug used in the lethal injection process, in the US has caused several states to modify lethal injection protocol. In August, a state judge in Arkansas ruled [JURIST report] that a state law provision allowing "any other chemical or chemicals" to be used for lethal injections violates the constitution's protection against cruel and unusual punishment. In March of last year, two Texas inmates requested stays on their executions [USA Today report] to obtain more information on the new protocol and possibly challenge the protocol as unconstitutional. Texas acknowledged that its supply of sodium thiopental had an expiration date of March 1. Arizona, Georgia and Oklahoma have faced similar challenges and are seeking to substitute the sodium thiopental used in the lethal injection "cocktail" with pentobarbital. Kentucky and Tennessee surrendered supplies of sodium thiopental [NYT report] to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after the agency seized Georgia's supply in order to investigate whether the drug was properly imported.