Life&Culture

Arkansas inmates scheduled for execution ask court to review

Arkansas inmates scheduled for execution ask court to review

The state reacted to her decision by filing federal court appeals Saturday.

The state's schedule of eight executions using midazolam between April 17 and 27 has been condemned by capital punishment opponents in the United States and overseas. Justices reassigned any death penalty cases from Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen, who banned the state from using a lethal injection drug a supplier said was misleadingly obtained.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, in a 101-page ruling, found the state's plan would deny the inmates their legal rights by depriving them of adequate counsel because prison officials allow only a single lawyer to be present for any execution. Alongside her team of 70 attorneys, the state's top prosecutor has worked through Easter weekend to reestablish the execution schedule.

This combination of file photos provided by the Arkansas Department of Correction shows death-row inmates Bruce Earl Ward, left, and Don William Davis.

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.

This was just the latest setback for the state's plan to execute eight prisoners before its supply of the sedative midazolam expires at the end of the month.

Attorneys argued that Ward, 60, should not be executed because he's mentally incompetent.

The state appealed U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker's order hours later, hoping to follow through with its planned executions, with the first scheduled for Monday. After issuing the order, Griffen participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration where he was strapped to a cot.

If court proceedings are pushed into May, Arkansas won't be able to carry out the executions with the drugs it has on hand.

The lawyers said it was wrong for Baker to write that the inmates "did not establish a significant possibility of success on the merits on their claim that the compressed execution schedule is contrary to the evolving standards of decency".

Medical supply company McKesson says Arkansas obtained its vecuronium bromide under false pretenses and that the state will not return it, even though the company has refunded Arkansas' money.

In her ruling, however, Baker did not accept all of the inmates' claims.

Vercurium bromide is one of three drugs used in the state's lethal injection protocol.

Under Arkansas' protocol, midazolam is used to sedate the inmate, vecuronium bromide then stops the inmate's breathing and potassium chloride stops the heart. However, Saturday afternoon, the company filed a motion with the state Supreme Court to dismiss the case because Baker had put a hold on the executions.

The medical supply company has said ADC purchased the drug, believing it would be used for medical purposes only. The Arkansas Parole Board had earlier voted to recommend that McGehee's death sentence be commuted to life without parole, and the judge ruled McGehee's April 27 execution date would not have given the board enough time, as required by law, to notify the governor of its recommendation.

Judd Deere, a spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said Griffen should not have heard the case at all.

While regular church services were planned for the holiday, many residents in the capital had been also expecting to attend a special vigil for the condemned later Sunday evening at Little Rock's Trinity Cathedral - which was supposed conclude with a march to the governor's mansion.


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