Arkansas' multiple execution plan in limbo after rulings


The drug company said Baker's ruling addresses their concerns about the vercurium bromide being used in executions, and the temporary restraining order issued on Friday is no longer needed at this time. Days before, a top medical supplier revealed it had provided the drug to Arkansas prisons for medical purposes - not for executions.

Arkansas had hoped to execute eight inmates in 11 days, starting with two on Monday, because its supply of one of the three drugs it uses in executions will expire at the end of the month.

The state Supreme Court offered no comment in staying Ward's execution.

Former Arkansas death row inmate Damien Echols speaks at rally opposing the state's upcoming executions, on the front steps of Arkansas' Capitol, Friday, April 14, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark.

Lawyers for the state told the court it would be in the public interest to execute before Arkansas's drugs expire. Rutledge, the state's attorney general, filed an appeal Saturday with the Arkansas Supreme Court seeking to have Griffen's order vacated and have him removed from the case. Last week, a federal judge issued a stay on the execution of inmate Jason McGehee after the parole board recommended he be eligible for clemency.

Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson has drawn criticism for deciding to put seven prisoners to death over an 11-day period, which is set to begin Monday.

The state has said it will appeal against District Judge Kristine Baker's order to grant stays of execution.

On Friday, Arkansas Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen, an outspoken opponent of capital punishment, issued an order on Friday blocking the state from using vecuronium bromide after a petition from its maker, McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc.

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The spokesperson said: "It is unfortunate that a USA district judge has chosen to side with the convicted prisoners in one of their many last-minute attempts to delay justice".

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 order Saturday, Baker cited troubled lengthy executions in Alabama, Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma that used the sedative midazolam. Ward's attorneys have argued he is a diagnosed schizophrenic with no rational understanding of his impending execution.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge also wants to remove the judge from the case after he participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration the day he issued his decision.

With its new secrecy law, approved in 2015, Arkansas will be able to resume executions, which had been blocked since 2005 by legal obstacles and drug shortages. Local media outlets had tweeted photos and video of Griffen appearing to mimic an inmate strapped to a gurney at the demonstration. Both the pace of the executions and the drugs slated to be used drew outcry from activists and civil rights groups.

"At this juncture, plaintiffs have failed to present a persuasive case for the proposition that source knowledge is necessary to mount a meaningful, much less comprehensive, challenge to Ohio's execution protocol", U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost wrote in his 2015 ruling upholding Ohio's drug secrecy efforts. One company said the state misled them about why they were buying the drug, promised to return it and then did not do so, while others said they repeatedly reached out to the state and did not hear back. Arkansas hasn't executed an inmate in eleven years, in part because of problems it has had with the injection drug, the Associated Press reported.

Arkansas, which has not carried out an execution in 12 years, planned to begin the lethal injections of at least six convicted murderers on Monday and complete the executions before the end of April. Baker, dealt another blow Saturday, April 15, 2017, to Arkansas' unprecedented plan to execute eight inmates in an 11-day period, saying the men have the right to challenge a drug protocol that could expose them to "severe pain".