Arkansas Supreme Court halts plan for 1 execution

Lawyers for the seven inmates set to be put to death in a 10-day span argued in federal court this week that the state's hurried schedule and execution protocol amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

Drug companies Fresenius Kabi USA and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals filed a motion as part of the federal lawsuit by the condemned inmates on Thursday, claiming that the drugs were secured in an improper manner, and could affect their ability to sell in Europe.

"The use of the medicines in lethal injections runs counter to the manufacturers' mission to save and enhance patients' lives, and carries with it not only a public-health risk, but also reputational, fiscal, and legal risks", the companies wrote.

Arkansas prison officials announced last month they had obtained a new supply of potassium chloride, clearing the way for the executions to begin. The state wants to carry out the lethal injections before a key drug expires on April 30. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson's office did not have an immediate comment on the supplier's statement.

Two pharmaceutical companies have joined a legal bid to prevent their drugs from being used to execute seven United States prison inmates in the space of 11 days. An eighth inmate received a stay.

The San Francisco-based company said in a statement released Thursday night that it sold vecuronium bromide to Arkansas' prison system believing it would be used for medical purposes.

The parent company of Fresenius is Fresenius Kabi in Germany.

The AP past year used redacted drug labels to identify Hospira, which was purchased by Pfizer, as the likely manufacturer of the third drug in Arkansas' lethal injection protocol, vecuronium bromide. Pfizer has objected to the use of its drugs in lethal injections and has put controls in place to prevent them from being used in executions.

In the brief, the court said that the Arkansas Department of Correction "misled McKesson when it procured the Vecuronium".

Arkansas Department of Correction spokesman Solomon Graves had previously declined to say who provided the state with the batch of the drug, due to expire in August 2018, quoting an Arkansas law that keeps the source of the drug anonymous. In large doses, the midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride each can kill.

U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker is expected to rule Friday in the inmates' request to halt the executions.

"The compressed execution schedule, asking an unpracticed staff to administer this protocol twice a day for four execution days in rapid succession, creates an extreme risk of harm and botched executions". In today's capital punishment landscape, death penalty opponents are as vocal as ever and some states have struggled with drug shortages, legal challenges and flawed executions.

Ward was scheduled to be executed on Monday evening in the second of two executions that night.

The sedative midazolam is one of the drugs Arkansas is alleged to have obtained improperly.

  • Larry Hoffman