Arkansas plans to put eight inmates to death over 10 days next month, a pace of executions unequaled in recent U.S. history caused by a looming expiration date for a drug used for lethal injections, the New York Times reports. The eight men facing execution — four black and four white — are among 34 death row inmates in Arkansas, where capital punishment has been suspended since 2005 over legal challenges and difficulty in acquiring the drugs. All eight men were convicted of murders that occurred between 1989 and 1999. Death penalty and victims’ rights supporters have been frustrated that the cases have dragged on so long.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a former federal prosecutor, said, “I would love to have those extended over a period of multiple months and years, but that’s not the circumstances that I find myself in.” He said it was necessary to schedule the executions close together because of doubts about the future availability of one of three drugs the state uses in its lethal-injection procedure. State officials have previously said that the expiration date would pass in April for Arkansas’s supply of midazolam, a drug that has been used in botched and gruesome lethal injections in other states in recent years. Amid the controversy generated by such cases, a number of pharmaceutical companies have restricted their drugs from use for capital punishment. Some states have had difficultly finding midazolam. Hutchinson set four execution dates for the eight inmates between April 17 and 27. Two men would be put to death on each of the four dates.