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Federal judge in Arkansas blocks series of executions

16 April, 2017, 02:10 | Author: Eddie Kim
  • Court blocks Arkansas from using lethal injection drug

A federal judge in Arkansas issued an injunction Saturday halting the execution by lethal injection of nine inmates, saying the prisoners will likely succeed in demonstrating the state's proposed method of execution is unconstitutional.

Baker's injunction follows two other court rulings this week that put a snag in Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson's whirlwind race to use prescription drugs for executions that not even the pharmaceutical companies that make them support. Some states have barred the use of the drug, and courts have reached different decisions on what inmates would have to do to suggest alternative means of execution.

This is the first time any state in the USA executes so many men in such a short time period since 1977, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. Two others won stays of execution from state courts, leaving six of the original petitioners now in line for their executions to be carried out.

Arkansas's supply of the lethal injection drug midazolam is expiring at the end of April.

The judge also faulted the state's policy of not letting lawyers have access to the inmates at the time of their deaths and said the inmates could raise challenges about the drugs to be used. "After hearing the evidence. the court is compelled to stay these executions".

Arkansas, which has not carried out an execution in 12 years, planned to begin the lethal injections of at least six convicted murderers on Monday.

According to Jeff Rosenzweig, an attorney for one of the death row inmates scheduled for execution, Arkansas "is using a protocol, a system, that is going to cause torture, and as a society, that's not acceptable", THV11 reported. The European Union issued a statement strongly opposing the plan, and anti-death penalty protests have grown in front of the Arkansas capitol in Little Rock.

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But Arkansas circuit court Judge Wendell Griffen, an outspoken opponent of capital punishment, issued an order on Friday blocking the state from using a second drug, vecuronium bromide, after a petition from its maker, McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. McKesson Corp. claims Arkansas improperly used medical credentials to obtain the vecuronium bromide and wants the product returned.

The judge ruled that the executions should be delayed as there was a significant possibility the inmates involved could successfully challenge the state's plans.

Arkansas, the company said, bought 10 boxes of vecuronium bromide, which the state can use to stop a prisoner's breathing.

The state Attorney General's Office said it would seek to have Griffen's order overturn in the state Supreme Court. Only Texas has executed six inmates in less time. He said he's been visited in prison by his deceased father and "resurrected dogs".

If Ward's stay remains in place and he is not executed this month, Arkansas would be looking at executing six inmates in 11 days - no longer an unprecedented time-frame, but one that has not been seen in this country in almost two decades.

Defense attorneys argued that midazolam does not effectively keep those being executed from experiencing a painful death. They were set to be executed two at a time between Monday and April 27, with lethal injections scheduled on consecutive Mondays and Thursdays.

"If midazolam does not adequately anesthetize plaintiffs, or if their executions are 'botched, ' they will suffer severe pain before they die", Baker wrote in her order Saturday. Don William Davis was also scheduled to be executed then.

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