U.S. state judge moves to block lethal injection executions

  • U.S. state judge moves to block lethal injection executions

U.S. state judge moves to block lethal injection executions

Prior to Baker's ruling, one of the eight executions was set aside because Arkansas didn't allow for a full 30-day comment period after the inmate won a clemency recommendation.

Baker's case dealt with execution procedures and scheduling as well as access to counsel.

"As a public opponent of capital punishment, Judge Griffen should have recused himself from this case", Ms Rutledge's spokesman Judd Deere said.

A judge was weighing Friday whether to block Arkansas' seven upcoming executions, set to begin next week, as a medical supplier said one of the three drugs the state plans to use to put the prisoners to death wasn't sold to be used for lethal injection.

Her ruling covers nine inmates: six set to die this month, two who had earlier received temporary stays of execution and one whose death had yet to be scheduled. They said that the Arkansas Department of Corrections has been unable to locate more of the vecuronium bromide needed as part of its three-drug protocol, and said that if they can not use the drug obtained from McKesson, "then the executions can not go forward".

The plan to execute the Arkansas inmates sparked outrage among civil rights and anti-death penalty organizations. It formally applies to nine prisoners, although the execution of one of them had not been scheduled.

A state Supreme Court judge had previously halted the execution of a seventh man earlier in the day, and an eighth execution was put on hold earlier.

On Thursday, two pharmaceutical companies asked Baker to prevent Arkansas from using their drugs in executions, according to the Democrat-Gazette.

Two other drug companies, Fresenius Kabi USA and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals Corp., filed a brief in US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas arguing contracts prohibit their products from being used in executions, which run "counter to the manufacturers' mission to save and enhance patients' lives". She said the inmates were entitled to challenge the execution process on the grounds it "creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain". Civil liberties advocates and two dozen former corrections officials nationwide have expressed concerns that the schedule - which originally included two executions, back-to-back, on four nights close together - would increase the chances of a mistake.

"The death penalty is constitutional", she said, citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision that authorized the use of the surgical sedative midazolam.

Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, however, is in a hurry because the state's supply of midazolam expires at the end of April and the chances of getting a substitute are slim.

"Despite the confidentiality provisions, it is still very hard to find a supplier willing to sell drugs to (the state) for use in lethal-injection executions", state Correction Department Director Wendy Kelley said in a court affidavit this month.

"The Arkansas Department of Correction intentionally sought to circumvent McKesson's policies to procure Pfizer's vecuronium bromide under the auspices that it would be used for medical purposes in ADC's health facility", McKesson said in its statement.

The judge has not ruled in this case.

With the first executions just days away, an Arkansas circuit court judge, Wendell Griffen of Pulaski County, on Friday issued a temporary restraining order barring authorities from using vecuronium bromide as part of a lethal-injection protocol.

An emergency hearing on the matter is scheduled in Griffen's court on Tuesday morning.