Arkansas judge rejects bid to block inmate's execution

"Arkansas is known across the world for the Little Rock Nine and all of that atrocity", said the coalition's execution director, Furonda Brasfield, referring to the 1957 desegregation battle in Little Rock involving nine black students.

Neither the office of Arkansas's governor, Asa Hutchinson, nor the state's department of corrections immediately replied to phone calls or an email. If Arkansas carries out these eight executions in April, it would in a week-and-a-half add 30% to its total judicial death toll of the past four decades, and it would be killing almost a quarter of its current death row population. Fresenius said its information indicated no sales of its potassium chloride directly or through its authorized distributors to the state's prison system.

"The only conclusion is that these medicines were acquired from an unauthorized seller in violation of important contractual terms that the manufacturers relied on", the companies stated in the court filing.

Hutchinson has said the state must act quickly because the efficacy date for one of the chemicals in its lethal injection mix, the sedative midazolam, expires at the end of April.

A 2015 state law keeps the source of Arkansas' three lethal injection drugs secret.

The parent company of Fresenius is Fresenius Kabi in Germany.

The AP past year used redacted drug labels to identify Hospira, which was purchased by Pfizer, as the likely manufacturer of the third drug in Arkansas' lethal injection protocol, vecuronium bromide. The drug used in lethal injections is set to expire.

Arkansas has a strict secrecy law surrounding its execution procedures, and has refused to say how it acquired the drugs it intends to use.

"We believe we have sought to appropriately enforce our policy and have fully explored everything within reason to seek the return of the product", Pfizer spokeswoman Rachel Hooper said in an email.

Their lawsuit is among a flurry of legal challenges aimed at halting the upcoming executions.

The judge's ruling is expected Thursday or Friday, and whichever side loses plans to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The inmates are challenging the compressed execution timetable, as well as the use of midazolam.

While outrage on social media is growing over Arkansas' unprecedented plan to put seven inmates to death before the end of the month, the protests have been more muted within the conservative Southern state where capital punishment is still favored by a strong majority of residents.

Arkansas hasn't executed an inmate since 2005, but that's about to change. If carried out, the timeline would be the most inmates a state has executed in that short of a time since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

About two dozen former corrections officials and administrators wrote to Hutchinson in late March urging him to abandon the plan, saying it places an undue burden on prison staff.

"From my standpoint, I have two convictions", he said "One, that I think death penalty is an appropriate punishment in the most serious and heinous crimes in our society".