Arkansas judge blocks state from using lethal drug

Asa Hutchinson

"This action is necessary to fulfill the requirement of the law, but it is also important to bring closure to the victims' families who have lived with the court appeals and uncertainty for a very long time", said Hutchinson in a statement to the Associated Press.

Arkansas last put someone to death in 2005.

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

Any significant delay in court arguments could make them largely meaningless: Arkansas' midazolam supply expires April 30 and the state says it has no source for additional doses.

The prison's "execution protocol and policies fail to contain adequate safeguards that mitigate some of the risk presented by using midazolam and trying to execute that many inmates in such a short period of time", Baker wrote in her opinion.

(AP) - After barring Arkansas from executing eight inmates in rapid succession because of a dispute over how it obtained one of its execution drugs, Judge Wendell Griffen went to an anti-death penalty rally, where he made a stir by lying down on a cot and binding himself as though he were a condemned man on a gurney. The lawsuit is among a flurry of challenges the inmates have filed to halt the executions.

She also declined to block the executions on the the basis of the prisoners' contention that Arkansas' lethal injection protocol goes against the country's evolving standards of decency.

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Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed an appeal late Saturday asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to vacate its Friday order granting a stay of execution for Ward, who had been slated to die Monday. Some states have barred the use of the drug, and courts have reached different decisions on what inmates would have to do to suggest alternative means of execution.

Critics have contended that the drug does not achieve the level of unconsciousness required for surgery, making it unsuitable for executions.

"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.

That judge, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, has come under fire for taking part in anti-death penalty protests the same day after issuing his order stopping the use of the drug. McKesson claimed Arkansas improperly used medical credentials to obtain the vecuronium bromide and wants the product returned. However, Saturday afternoon, the company filed a motion with the state Supreme Court to dismiss the case because Baker had put a hold on the executions.

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 company said it'll continue efforts to have the drug returned.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Saturday also asked the state's highest court to vacate Griffen's ruling, citing the judge's participation in anti-death penalty events before and after he issued it. "However, the last minute court reviews are all part of the hard process of death penalty cases". An employee inside the building said it likely had to do with Arkansas executions and Griffen's temporary restraining order.

On Saturday, a second judge issued a ruling to halt the executions. The panel ultimately dropped its case against him. "This decision is significantly out of step with precedent from the Eighth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court".

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