Arkansas execution plan major test for drug secrecy measures

But Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson had wanted to proceed swiftly with the executions as one of the chemicals in the difficult-to-obtain lethal injection, the sedative midazolam, expires at the end of April.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker is considering the inmates' arguments that such a compressed schedule could lead to undue pain and suffering, as well as the drugmakers' desire that their products not be used for capital punishment.

Arkansas, which hasn't put anyone to death since 2005 due to legal challenges and difficulty getting execution drugs, plans to use three drugs to kill the inmates, including two that are typically used in surgery and one that benefits cardiac patients. Rutledge, the state's attorney general, filed an appeal Saturday with the Arkansas Supreme Court seeking to have Griffen's order vacated and have him removed from the case. If carried out, they would be the most executions carried out by a state in that timeframe since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The state's supply of midazolam expires on April 30. "Each of these. men was convicted by a jury of their peers and then sentenced to death".

"It is unfortunate that a U.S. District Judge has chosen to side with the convicted prisoners in one of their many last-minute attempts to delay justice", Deere told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazettein an emailed statement.

A member of the United Methodist Church, Reverend Copley has been an outspoken critic of the death penalty and had just come back from a rally at the Arkansas Capitol when he learned about Judge Griffen's ruling. An eighth execution was stayed by a federal judge.

Judge Wendell Griffen issued his order after the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a stay that blocked the execution of Bruce Ward who was to be put to death on Monday, and Arkansas Online reports that the state Attorney General's office said it would seek to have Griffen's order overturned by Arkansas' high court. Three pharmaceutical companies have also objected to their products being used in Arkansas' planned executions.

Four companies have publicly voiced concerns about how the Arkansas Department of Correction came to stockpile the drugs for its lethal injection cocktail - midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride - but only the McKesson Corporation made an explicit allegation of deception.

Medical supply company McKesson says Arkansas obtained its vecuronium bromide under false pretenses and that the state will not return it, even though the company has refunded Arkansas' money. She also said the protocol doesn't lay out what executioners intend to do to ensure that the inmates are unconscious. Pfizer said McKesson sold the drug to Arkansas without Pfizer's knowledge. Two others won stays of execution from state courts, leaving six of the original petitioners.

"I don't remember any problems", said Jim Willett, the warden in the death chamber the evening of August 9, 2000, when the double execution happened.

The first of the six remaining executions was scheduled to take place Monday evening, and the last was scheduled for April 27.

Two other drug makers on Thursday asked a federal court to block Arkansas from using their drugs for upcoming executions, claiming that doing so would violate contractual controls and create a public health risk, court documents showed. "It is their right to decide whether the death penalty should be a form of punishment in Arkansas, not the court's", she said.

  • Salvatore Jensen