Judge halts Arkansas plan to execute inmates by end of month

16 April, 2017, 02:04 | Author: Michele Stevens
  • Court blocks Arkansas from using lethal injection drug

He is among eight death-row inmates who were scheduled to be executed over an 11-day period this month.

Arkansas' push to resume executions after almost 12 years with an already compromised plan to put eight men to death over 11 days is in limbo after a judge blocked the use of a lethal injection drug a supplier says officials misleadingly obtained and the state's highest court halted the execution of one of the first inmates who had been scheduled to die. "However, the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment is not limited to inherently barbaric punishments".

Gov. Asa Hutchinson initially scheduled eight executions for the 11-day period, but other court action reduced the number of executions to six.

The order came the same day justices issued a stay for Bruce Ward, who was scheduled to be put to death on Monday night for the 1989 death of a woman found strangled in the men's room of the Little Rock convenience store where she worked.

The courts seem to be lining up to disagree with the governor.

"Bruce Ward was convicted of capital murder in 1990 and the State Supreme Court has previously upheld his conviction", Judd Deere, a spokesman for Rutledge, said in a statement.

McKesson said: "The imminent danger that defendants (the state) would use McKesson's property and be unable to return it has been addressed by the federal court's preliminary injunction order".

Manufacturers object to states using their drugs in executions, and the Arkansas Department of Corrections said in previous court filings that it doesn't have a way of obtaining more of the sedative midazolam.

- Misled about drug's use? The companies argued that these drugs are intended for health care, not for killing people.

"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.

"The inmates' attorneys sought to temporarily block the executions, arguing that the compressed schedule increases the likelihood of potentially harmful mistakes".

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Protesters gather outside the state Capitol building on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark., to voice their opposition to Arkansas' seven upcoming executions.

John Williams, attorney for some of the death row prisoners welcomed Baker's ruling, saying it was legally sound and reasonable.

Read Baker's entire ruling here.

The company has said it sold the drug to be used for medical purposes, not executions. The Arkansas Supreme Court issued a stay in his execution.

On Friday afternoon, Judge Wendell Griffen of the Pulaski County Circuit Court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting state officials from using the vecuronium bromide.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge appealed the decision hours after it was issued.

Lawyers for the inmates challenged the use of midazolam, which was involved in flawed executions elsewhere, as well as the shortened timeframe.

The first of the six remaining executions is still scheduled for Monday evening. Arkansas hasn't executed an inmate in eleven years, in part because of problems it has had with the injection drug, the Associated Press reported.

"Arkansans have shown a consistent commitment to the death penalty, although Arkansas has employed the death penalty less than surrounding states", Barth said.

Ward is also one of several inmates participating in a federal lawsuit seeking to have the executions stayed by declaring the execution schedule - and the planned lethal-injection procedure - unconstitutional.

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