Life&Culture

Arkansas encounters two new legal hurdles in execution plans

Arkansas encounters two new legal hurdles in execution plans

Justices on Friday issued a stay in the execution of Bruce Ward, one of seven inmates the state plans to put to death before the end of the month. Three years ago in Oklahoma, an attempt to execute two inmates on the same April day was thwarted after the first prisoner writhed and moaned on the gurney in a lethal injection the corrections chief tried to halt before the inmate's death 43 minutes later.

A U.S. federal judge on Saturday blocked a series of executions planned by the state of Arkansas, as legal obstacles to the unprecedentedly intense schedule mounted and death-penalty opponents staged worldwide protests.

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

A state judge ruled Friday that Arkansas can not inject inmates with the muscle relaxant now on hand until he addresses a complaint that prison officials obtained the drug improperly.

The judge's order also included facts based on testimony given by ADC staff that seem to have similarities to allegations made by a drug company when it requested a temporary restraining order for its drug to not be used in the Arkansas executions.

Governor Asa Hutchinson has said the state must act quickly because its midazolam supply expires at the end of the month. The other prisoners scheduled for execution are Don Davis, Stacey Johnson, Ledell Lee, Marcel Williams, Jack Jones and Kenneth Williams.

Last week U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. proved receptive to that argument, ruling that the original schedule did not allow enough time for the clemency petition of one of the death-row inmates, Jason McGehee, to proceed.

And he suggested that Arkansas should face no retaliation over his accelerated execution plan because it was hardly at the forefront of states practicing capital punishment.

Drug companies Fresenius Kabi USA and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals filed a motion as part of the federal lawsuit by the condemned inmates on Thursday, claiming that the drugs were secured in an improper manner, and could affect their ability to sell in Europe.

There have been mounting protests over the executions in front of the state Capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas. The executions had been scheduled to start Monday night.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office said she planned to file an emergency request with the state Supreme Court to vacate the temporary restraining order, saying Griffen should not handle the case. That plan, if carried out, would have marked the most inmates executed by a state in such a short period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The company said the Arkansas prison system failed to return a supply of the drug when it learned the state meant to use it for executions, a violation of an understanding between the two, according to McKesson.

Arkansas hasn't executed an inmate in more than 11 years because of drug shortages and legal challenges.

In recent rulings, state and federal courts across the country have upheld the legality of the new secrecy laws, despite opponents' complaints.

Arkansas uses a three-drug combination of midazolam, vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride in its lethal injection procedures.

The drug prompted controversy after it was used in a bungled execution in Oklahoma and in lethal injections that were prolonged and included inmates gasping for breath in Ohio, Arizona and in Alabama, The Washington Post reported.


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