LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas enacted a new lethal injection law this week, ending months in legal limbo after the state's top court threw out the old law last year.
However, with more legal challenges expected, the state is likely months away from killing a condemned prisoner for the first time since 2005.
The attorney general's office expects some of the state's 37 death row inmates to challenge the new law.
"We don't know when the inmates will choose to file their lawsuit, but we are prepared for them to file it and we will be ready when they do," Chief Deputy Attorney General Brad Phelps said.
Two days after Gov. Mike Beebe signed the new execution legislation into law, no new execution dates had been set on Friday, meaning the state doesn't have any pending executions. For that to change, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel would have to notify Beebe that inmates' court challenges have run their course and ask him to schedule executions.
Phelps, the chief deputy attorney general, would not say which of the eight inmates who have exhausted their appeals would be the first to have an execution date.
"I'm not prepared to commit who will be first or who will be last," Phelps said. "There are eight who are eligible to have their sentences carried out and we intend to work very diligently to make sure those are carried out."
The Arkansas Supreme Court in June deemed a 2009 lethal injection law unconstitutional, saying the Legislature had given the Department of Correction "unfettered discretion" to figure out the protocol and procedures for executions, including the chemicals to be used.
What Beebe signed Wednesday spells out in greater detail the procedures that must be followed. However, some lawmakers expressed concerns that the law fails to address issues that led the court to overturn the previous one.
The new law says the state must use a lethal dose of a barbiturate, but leaves it up to the Department of Correction to determine which drug. So far, that agency hasn't rushed into selecting a drug.