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The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled today that the state's capital punishment law is unconstitutional.
The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled today that the state's capital punishment law is unconstitutional because the state’s Department of Correction currently sets execution policy, Reuters reported.
Five of the seven-member court agreed with death row inmate Jack Harold Jones, who filed a lawsuit in 2010 – later joined by nine more inmates – arguing that Arkansas' constitution only allows the Legislature to determine policies and procedures for executions, the Associated Press reported.
In 2009, the Legislature passed a law giving the Department of Corrections and its director the authority to choose the chemicals used in lethal injections, Reuters reported.
"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 Jim Gunter wrote in the majority opinion, according to the AP.
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There are currently 40 men on death row in Arkansas, but the state hasn’t executed anyone since 2005, Reuters reported.
Following the supreme court’s ruling, "the death penalty is still the law in Arkansas, but the Department of Correction now has no legal way to carry out an execution until a new statute is established," Arkansas Gov. Beebe said in a statement, according to the AP.
Beebe said he plans to meet with the state's attorney general and legislative leaders to come up with way for the prisons to resume executions, the AP reported.
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