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Federal judge issues injunction to block Arkansas executions

Apr 16, 2017, 02:10
Federal judge issues injunction to block Arkansas executions

Griffen's order effectively halted the executions, which had dropped to six after the state Supreme Court blocked one execution Friday and a federal judge halting another last week, unless the state finds a new supply of the drug.

The state Supreme Court offered no comment in staying Ward's execution.

Ward was scheduled to be the first inmate killed on Monday.

Arkansas's supply of the lethal injection drug midazolam is expiring at the end of April.

The drug's maker, McKesson Medical Surgical, said it had been misled by the state.

If Arkansas did execute eight inmates before the end of the month, it would be the most executions in such a short period of time since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

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His lawyers have said he is schizophrenic and does not understand what is happening to him.

The company said a temporary restraining order issued by a Pulaski County judge preventing Arkansas from using the drug is no longer necessary now that a federal judge has halted the state's executions, which were set to begin Monday.

And he suggested that Arkansas should face no retaliation over his accelerated execution plan because it was hardly at the forefront of states practicing capital punishment. "A condemned prisoner can successfully challenge the method of his or her execution by showing that the state's method "creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain" and 'the risk is substantial when compared to the known and available alternatives'".

"Arkansans have shown a consistent commitment to the death penalty, although Arkansas has employed the death penalty less than surrounding states", Barth said. The latest ruling from Baker applies to the eight originally scheduled to die, plus one more man whose execution had not yet been scheduled.

If Ward's stay remains in place and he is not executed this month, Arkansas would be looking at executing six inmates in 11 days - no longer an unprecedented time-frame, but one that has not been seen in this country in almost two decades.

Two other drug companies, Fresenius Kabi USA and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals Corp., filed a brief in US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas arguing contracts prohibit their products from being used in executions, which run "counter to the manufacturers' mission to save and enhance patients' lives".

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

"Without the medical license, and the associated tacit representation that the controlled drug would only be used for a legitimate medical objective, McKesson would not have sold the vecuronium to ADC", the company said in its lawsuit.

Roughly an hour after Judge Griffen issued the temporary restraining order, he could be found lying on a cot in front of the Governor's Mansion protesting against the planned executions.

Rutledge, the state attorney general, had filed an emergency petition to overturn the Griffen's order.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge also wants to remove the judge from the case after he participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration the day he issued his decision.

"When I set the eight execution dates in accordance with the law and my responsibilities, I was fully aware that the actions would trigger both the individual clemency hearings and separate court reviews on varying claims by the death row inmates".

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Ward is also one of several inmates participating in a federal lawsuit seeking to have the executions stayed by declaring the execution schedule - and the planned lethal-injection procedure - unconstitutional.

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