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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Arkansas judge strikes secrecy portion of execution law

LITTLE ROCK — An Arkansas judge struck down a portion of the state's execution law that keeps secret the source of drugs it uses, saying Thursday that drug suppliers do not have a constitutional right to be free from criticism.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen sided with death row inmates who challenged a law passed by lawmakers this year that prevents disclosure about the drugs that are used in executions.

The judge also ordered the state to disclose drug details, including the makers and suppliers, by noon Friday.

"It is common knowledge that capital punishment is not universally popular," Griffen wrote. "That reality is not a legitimate reason to shield the entities that manufacture, supply, distribute, and sell lethal injection drugs from public knowledge."

Judd Deere, a spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said late Thursday that the office had filed notice of appeal with the state Supreme Court. 

Rutledge also asked for an immediate stay of Griffen's order.

"Attorney General Rutledge has a duty to defend the State's lethal injection statute and disagrees with Judge Griffen's order," Deere wrote in an emailed statement.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the judge's decision was "troubling" because the drug suppliers were assured confidentiality, "so a sale was accomplished based upon that law and that promise of confidentiality."

"There's already a stay of the executions at issue by the court and so I can't see any necessity for the immediate disclosure of that information," he said.

Source: The Associated Press, December 3, 2015

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