Drug Company Files Another Lawsuit Against Arkansas Over Use Of Execution Drugs
Officials in Arkansas drew worldwide criticism in February when they announced plans to execute eight prisoners over ten days in an attempt to use up the state's supply of lethal injection drugs before it expired at the end of the month. The move put a pin in the state's efforts to resume capital punishment after 12 years and an aggressive plan to carry out four double executions before its lethal injection drug expires.
Hutchinson defended the accelerated schedule, unmatched in the modern era, because the state's supply of one of the lethal drugs used in the process expires at the end of April. The inmates' counsel requested stays of execution until a US Supreme Court ruling on an upcoming case concerning inmate access to independent mental health experts.
In its lawsuit, McKesson Medical-Surgical, a unit of McKesson Corp, said the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) acted deceitfully when it purchased another drug, vecuronium bromide, a commonly used muscle relaxant given in extreme doses in executions to paralyze the body and halt breathing.
The next two executions in Arkansas are scheduled Thursday with three others set for next week.
However, after their lawyers argued they were mentally unfit to face execution, the Supreme Court issued a last-minute stay.
In another case, Baker cancelled an April 18 hearing in which the lawyers for Marcel Williams, who is scheduled to be executed April 24, meant to argue that because of his obesity, Arkansas' lethal injection protocol is not likely to kill him and could cause organ damage.
His attorneys have separately asked a federal judge to consider claims that Lee has fetal alcohol syndrome, brain damage and an intellectual disability.
The legal issue that halted Monday's executions for Ward and Davis hinged on a separate, broader case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning a defendant's access to independent experts, and attorneys say the justices' ruling could potentially affect the inmates' criminal convictions.
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Capital punishment in several states has been stymied by opposition of some global drug companies to the use of their products for executions and difficulties in finding effective replacements. Monday marked the first day that the U.S. Supreme Court was in session with new Justice Neil Gorsuch on the bench.
If the rulings are overturned by Monday night, the state will be prepared to execute at least one inmate, according to local TV station KATV.
But the state high court's ruling halting the executions remains in effect.
The previous day, an Arkansas judge, responding to a lawsuit from two pharmaceutical companies, issued a temporary restraining order on the state's executions based on evidence the state may not have obtained Midazolam properly.
"My job as governor is to work with the attorney general to make sure that justice is accomplished and the law of Arkansas is carried out, and that's what we're working every day to accomplish", he said.
The execution would have been the first in Arkansas since 2005.
Protesters marched outside the governor's mansion Monday.
Two other Arkansas inmates - Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson - are scheduled to die Thursday. The state has not appealed those decisions as of yet. "Authorities say a last meal has also been arranged".
The eighth circuit appeals court rejected Baker's determination that the executions should be delayed to give courts time to consider whether the use of midazolam is a breach of the Eighth Amendment.
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