But last week Attorney General Leslie Rutledge sent letters to the governor requesting that execution dates be set. Rutledge said that the inmates' appeals were exhausted and that the state Department of Correction said it purchased enough doses of lethal-injection drugs to perform the executions.
Hutchinson acknowledged, however, that he expects the dates to be challenged.
One pending lawsuit challenges a new state law that allows the Correction Department not to disclose how it obtains its execution drugs. Federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have rejected similar arguments used by inmates in Missouri, Texas and other states that also allow prisons to keep their drug suppliers' names secret.
In the lawsuit, attorney Jeff Rosenzweig is representing the eight inmates, along with a ninth death-row inmate whose case is still being appealed. He said earlier this month that he plans to file motions to delay any execution dates the governor sets.
The first two executions are scheduled Oct. 21, for inmates Bruce Earl Ward and Don William Davis.
Ward, a former perfume salesman, was convicted in the 1989 killing of 18-year-old Rebecca Doss, whose body was found in the men's bathroom of the convenience store where she worked. Davis, who had an execution date set in 2006 that was stayed, was sentenced to death for the 1990 killing of Jane Daniels in northwestern Arkansas.
Arkansas has executed 27 people since the U.S. Supreme Court reauthorized the death penalty in 1976. The last person put to death in the state was Eric Nance in 2005, for the killing of 18-year-old Julie Heath of Malvern.
Arkansas' execution protocol calls for a three-drug process. The Department of Correction said that as of July 1, it had enough of the drugs, including midazolam, to perform the executions.
Midazolam was implicated after executions last year in Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma went longer than expected, with inmates gasping and groaning as they died. The U.S. Supreme Court approved continued use of the drug in June, rejecting a challenge from three Oklahoma death-row inmates.
The Associated Press