Federal Judge Halts Executions in Arkansas

Cheryl Sanders
April 22, 2017

The Arkansas Supreme Court had earlier granted a temporary reprieve to one of the prisoners, who suffers from mental problems.

A federal judge in Arkansas blocked the execution of eight inmates expected to be killed over a period of 11 days.

"If I would have chosen to spread it out over four months or six months, would that have made any difference to the death-penalty opponents who are coming in here and protesting this?" he asked, in comments reported by the Arkansas Times.

Other states have botched executions when using midazolam, producing reports of prolonged deaths that included inmates gasping, coughing and writhing on gurneys.

"I understand how hard this is on the victims' families, and my heart goes out to them as they once again deal with the continued court review; however, the last minute court reviews are all part of the hard process of death penalty cases", Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.

"Within an hour of granting the TRO [temporary restraining order], Judge Griffen was photographed at a second anti-death penalty rally - this one at the Governor's Mansion, where Judge Griffen lay strapped down to a cot to simulate the experience of a condemned prisoner on a gurney", Rutledge wrote.

The restraining order was issued in response to a case brought by the manufacturer of one of the drugs, vecuronium bromide, that Arkansas uses in its executions. Rutledge said in a status update with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that she believes the state court's ruling was based on a misinterpretation of federal law.

In her order Saturday, Baker cited troubled lengthy executions in Alabama, Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma that used the sedative midazolam. McKesson claimed Arkansas improperly used medical credentials to obtain the vecuronium bromide and wants the product returned. It had said Thursday it issued Arkansas a refund of its purchase price but that the drug came back.

In a statement, McKesson left open the possibility it could refile its suit if Arkansas is allowed to proceed with the executions.

It is the first time in United States legal history that a private company has brought direct legal action to prevent the misuse of medicines in executions. The latter drug is meant to render the inmate unconscious before the other two chemicals are administered to paralyze the lungs and stop the heart.

"These thoughts weigh heavily on the court, but the court has a responsibility to uphold the Constitution". Arkansas was set to execute the first inmate by lethal injection on Monday night. Any decision there would likely also be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

McAndrew, who took part in the deaths of eight convicts - three in Florida, and five in Texas as training - says that the executions in Arkansas will undoubtedly be carried out by the same five people.

The inmates lost on some claims, including one that their lawyers couldn't provide adequate counsel under the state's schedule and that the tight timetable itself was improper. It would keep the right to file another lawsuit if Baker's order is overturned.

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