Wednesday, 13 December, 2017

Arkansas' multiple execution plan unravels after rulings

Image Johnny Depp speaks out against the death penalty on the steps of the state capitol in Little Rock One Arkansas Execution Halted, Drug Blocked
Edmund Wade | 16 April, 2017, 01:31

It came after the state Supreme Court earlier that day stayed the execution of one of seven men scheduled to die by lethal injection before the month's end.

A federal judge is weighing whether to block the state's plan to put the men to death before the end of the month.

The preliminary injunction by U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker, in Little Rock, came a day after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order barring Arkansas from using its supply of another drug - vecuronium bromide - in the executions.

Eight inmates were initially slated for the mass execution, set to begin on Monday, but on Friday the Arkansas Supreme Court granted an emergency stay in the scheduled execution of 60-year-old Bruce Earl Ward.

The drugs used in lethal injections by some American states - 19 of the 50 no longer execute prisoners - have become increasingly hard to obtain.

According to Jeff Rosenzweig, an attorney for one of the death row inmates scheduled for execution, Arkansas "is using a protocol, a system, that is going to cause torture, and as a society, that's not acceptable", THV11 reported.

An Arkansas judge has temporarily blocked six executions from taking place after the company that manufactured the drugs to be used in the executions filed a complaint that the drug was not meant to be used for lethal injection. The state prison system "never disclosed its intended objective to us for these products", a lawyer for McKesson, Ethan M. Posner, wrote in a letter obtained by The New York Times.

In her order Saturday, Baker cited troubled lengthy executions in Alabama, Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma that used the sedative midazolam.

"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.

Arkansas, which has not carried out an execution in 12 years, planned to kill seven convicted murderers beginning Monday.

"I don't remember any problems", said Jim Willett, the warden in the death chamber the evening of August 9, 2000, when the double execution happened.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office said she planned to file an emergency request with the state Supreme Court to vacate the temporary restraining order, saying Griffen should not handle the case. If carried out, the executions would mark the most inmates put to death by a state in such a short period in modern history.

Arkansas' supply of midazolam, the key drug in the procedure, expires April 30.

"Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005 due to both legal challenges and difficulty in maintaining a drug supply". Arkansas plans to use 240 mEq immediately after the inmate is injected with vecuronium bromide.

"The only conclusion is that these medicines were acquired from an unauthorized seller in violation of important contractual terms that the manufacturers relied on when selling the medicines", thee two companies said in the brief.

"We are pleased that the court has ruled in our favor and we look forward to the return of our product", McKesson said in a statement. McKesson claimed Arkansas improperly used medical credentials to obtain the vecuronium bromide and wants the product returned.

Absent details about drug sources, death penalty opponents may focus on questions about the drugs' reliability or how they are administered, based on flawed executions elsewhere.

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