Arkansas execution plan major test for drug secrecy measures

Simon shows Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen taking part of an anti-death penalty demonstration outside the Governor's Mansion Friday

Simon shows Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen taking part of an anti-death penalty demonstration outside the Governor's Mansion Friday

Let me add one final point, though, that a recent poll here in Arkansas put approval of the death penalty upwards of 60 percent.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a 101-page ruling Saturday, finding the plan would unreasonably restrict the inmates' rights to counsel and access to the courts. Courts in that southern state have blocked those executions for now, as legal appeals continue.

Another judge in Arkansas effectively stopped the executions Friday night, citing concerns over the lethal injection method.

Griffen's order was issued the same day he was reported to be among those demonstrating at a vigil related to the executions, which state officials seized on in their challenge.

McKesson Medical-Surgical has filed a motion to vacate the Temporary Restraining Order and dismiss their case before Judge Griffen.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted the execution of one of two inmates facing lethal injection Monday under the state's multiple execution plan.

Arkansas and at least a dozen other states with the death penalty have been able to keep secret how and where they are getting the lethal drugs used in their death chambers - information that had always been publicly available.

"I$3 f the ADC can not use the vecuronium bromide for the scheduled executions, then the executions can not go forward", she wrote.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge criticized the ruling, saying on Twitter, "It is past time for the victims' families to see justice for the awful murders of their loved ones".

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Arkansas last put someone to death in 2005.

Griffen said he would not consider a person's participation in an anti-execution event enough, on its own, to warrant disqualifying a juror from a death penalty case.

The state has faced a series of legal setbacks in its plan to rush through the executions, which it said was necessary because its supply of one of the drugs used, midazolam, was about to expire.

Drugmakers have largely objected to having their products used in executions and have refused to sell to prisons for that goal.

In the separate case Friday, Griffen issued the temporary restraining order blocking the use of vecuronium bromide after the supplier of the drug filed a complaint in court saying it had been mislead by the prison system.

During four days of hearings that lasted into the evening last week, anesthesiologists testified in Baker's court that midazolam does not block pain; that the second drug meant to stop the person from breathing can leave him gasping for breath; and that the third drug meant to stop the person's heart from beating can produce burning pain.

Ms. Rutledge argued in her brief that Ward deliberately engaged in foot-dragging in order to improve his chances of gaining a postponement, such as filing his lawsuit March 29, a month after the governor scheduled the executions.

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

The European Union on Wednesday urged Mr Hutchinson to commute the death-row inmates' sentences. Arkansas plans to use 240 mEq immediately after the inmate is injected with vecuronium bromide. The U.S. judge has yet to issue a ruling on the broader case.

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"If midazolam does not adequately anesthetize plaintiffs, or if their executions are 'botched, ' they will suffer severe pain before they die", Baker wrote in her order Saturday. McKesson claimed Arkansas improperly used medical credentials to obtain the vecuronium bromide and wants the product returned.

Barring the order getting overturned, Griffen has already successfully muddled the state's brisk execution schedule.

A representative for the McKesson company could not be reached Saturday.

Crowds gather at a rally opposing Arkansas' upcoming executions, which are set to begin next week, on the front steps of the Capitol Friday, April 14, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark.

In a statement he said he expected all of the last month's clemency hearings and court cases to be tough on the victim's families, calling it "all part of a hard process".

"The rulings today are just part of the process and not unexpected", J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson, said in a statement.

The six prisoners still facing execution - Davis, Stacey Johnson, Ledell Lee, Jack Jones Jr., Marcel Williams and Kenneth Williams - likely learned about the reprieves from the televisions in their solitary cells, said Lee Short, an attorney for Lee. That appeal goes to the 8th Circuit in St. Louis.

"We do not require people to come into court with blank slates, either in their minds or their heart", he said.

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