Federal judge rejects execution-drug challenge; state’s use doesn’t violate 8th Amendment

The three-drug protocol that Arkansas used to execute four death-row inmates in 2017 doesn’t violate the 8th Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, a federal judge said Monday in a 106-page ruling following a non-jury trial last year.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker sided with the state in finding that the state’s method of execution is constitutional. It begins with the use of the sedative Midazolam, is followed by an injection of vercuronium bromide, a paralytic, and ends with an injection of potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

Attorneys for death-row inmates challenged the use of Midazolam, in particular, presenting testimony that it doesn’t always sedate someone deeply enough to prevent experiencing pain from the use of the other two drugs.

The use of Midazolam has been upheld in other states as well.