Arkansas judge blocks state from using lethal drug

  • Arkansas judge blocks state from using lethal drug

Arkansas judge blocks state from using lethal drug

The ruling by a federal court in Little Rock threatens that plan, as did an order on Friday by an Arkansas state judge.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is planning to appeal Baker's decision.

The state of Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005 due to drug shortages and legal challenges.

"We have worked round the clock for the last couple of weeks and particularly in the last couple of days, as judges have made decisions and court cases have been filed in these pieces of litigation, to ensure again that justice is carried out for these families of the victims", Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge told Little Rock NBC-affiliate KARK.

On Holy Thursday, more than 200 faith leaders from across Arkansas sent a signed letter to Gov. Asa Hutchinson - who is the one who in February scheduled eight men to be executed in a 10-day span - begging him to reconsider the use of capital punishment. The U.S. Supreme Court could be asked to tackle a number of questions before the end of the day and, depending on those answers, Ward could walk to the death chamber at Varner for a 7 p.m. execution.

"The unnecessarily compressed execution schedule using the risky drug midazolam denies prisoners their right to be free from the risk of torture", he said in a statement, referring to the drug used to render inmates unconscious before they are given two other drugs that paralyze and kill them. The inmates say midazolam is unsuitable as an execution drug, saying it is not a painkiller and could subject them to a cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Baker says the inmates could have legitimate claims that Arkansas' execution protocol could inflict "severe pain".

McKesson said it had requested Arkansas return its supply of vecuronium bromide after the San Francisco-based company learned it would be used in executions.

On Saturday Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen was strapped to a cot, like an inmate who is set to be executed by lethal injection, about two and a half hours before he issued a temporary restraining order blocking the executions, the Washington Times reported. A supplier of the drug accused Arkansas of misleadingly obtaining the product, saying it wasn't sold to be used for executions. Both men are scheduled for execution April 17, 2017.

McKesson said it's considering legal action to get the drug back.

Vercurium bromide is one of three drugs used in the state's lethal injection protocol. Supporters have said it is effective, and the U.S. Supreme Court has authorized its use. "(D) elaying Appellees' executions by even a few days - until Arkansas's supply of midazolam expires - will make it impossible for Arkansas to carry out Appellees' just and lawful sentences".

In the brief, the court said that the Arkansas Department of Correction "misled McKesson when it procured the Vecuronium". "Judge Griffen's ex parte TRO is an undisguised stay of the upcoming executions". Baker's order comes a day after Arkansas state judge Wendell Griffen issued a broad temporary restraining order [text] in favor of the prisoners. The state Supreme Court issued a stay for another of the inmates on Friday so that his mental health could be assessed. Governor Asa Hutchinson had a muted response after Judge Baker's ruling Saturday morning.

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.