Arkansas asks court to lift inmate's stay

Asa Hutchinson

Friday, Judge Wendell Griffen, a Pulaski County Circuit Judge both protested Arkansas' death penalty by strapping himself to a gurney, much like the ones used for lethal injection in front of the Governor's Mansion, and also granted a temporary restraining order for McKesson, the manufacturer of Vecuronium Bromide, who alleges they didn't know the State would be using the drug for executions.

The first of the executions was scheduled for Monday, but barring a reversal by judges or a higher court, Don Davis will not be put to death that day.

A federal judge Saturday blocked Arkansas' plan to execute six inmates over the course of ten days.

On Saturday Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen was strapped to a cot, like an inmate who is set to be executed by lethal injection, about two and a half hours before he issued a temporary restraining order blocking the executions, the Washington Times reported.

The State had initially planned to execute eight inmates over eleven days just two weeks before its supply of midazolam, a lethal injection drug, is set to expire. Governor Asa Hutchinson had a muted response after Judge Baker's ruling Saturday morning.

"The unnecessarily compressed execution schedule using the risky drug midazolam denies prisoners their right to be free from the risk of torture", he said in a statement. But various courts have blocked some or all of the executions.

Baker had said that while the Supreme Court has made reference to evolving standards, particularly when "punishments are so disproportionate as to be cruel and unusual", the Arkansas death row inmates were unlikely to prevail. Midazolam is not the only drug facing criticism, however, as the McKesson Corporation has sought return [press release] of the drug vecuronium bromide, one of its drugs used in the process. "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'".

"Despite the confidentiality provisions, it is still very hard to find a supplier willing to sell drugs to (the state) for use in lethal-injection executions", state Correction Department Director Wendy Kelley said in a court affidavit this month.

Despite the drug maker requesting to vacate the original lawsuit, the executions are still halted due to Judge Baker's injunction.

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.

Arkansas Attorney General, Leslie Rutledge and her staff are very busy along with the lawyers for all the inmates.

This 2010 photo provided by the U.S District Court of Eastern District of Arkansas shows U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker.

The executions schedule - a pace rarely seen since the death penalty resumed 40 years ago in the United States - has drawn worldwide media attention to Arkansas. The San Francisco-based firm said Baker's ruling removed the imminent danger of the drugs being used for executions.

"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", the Republican governor explained.

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

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