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Arkansas inmates scheduled for execution ask court to review

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Arkansas' plan to execute 8 men over 11 days is now in legal limbo

A federal judge ruled on Saturday to halt the executions over the inmates' complaints about the compressed timetable and the use of a controversial sedative in the lethal injections.

Inmates went to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overnight and asked judges to take their time reviewing transcripts and rulings, rather than complete their work in two days as the state has asked. Arkansas was set to execute the first inmate by lethal injection on Monday night.

The state of Arkansas has appealed a federal judge's decision preventing it from executing several inmates before its supply of an execution drug expires at the end of the month. Arkansas hasn't executed an inmate since 2005 because of drug shortages and legal challenges.

The Arkansas high court already had issued one stay for Ward after a Jefferson County judge said she didn't have the authority to halt Ward's execution.

Protesters gather outside the state Capitol building on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark., to voice their opposition to Arkansas' seven upcoming executions. She could ask either the state court or the U.S. Supreme Court for the review. The lawsuit is among a flurry of challenges the inmates have filed to halt the executions.

Arkansas had scheduled the series of executions in order to beat the expiration date on its batch of one of the three drugs used in its lethal injection cocktail. Griffen granted the order after McKesson Medical-Surgical, which does not want its product used in executions, petitioned to stop the state on the grounds that the drug had been misleadingly obtained. A federal judge issued stays for each of the inmates Saturday and a state court judge on Friday blocked prison officials from using a paralyzing drug until he could determine whether Arkansas obtained it properly.

Drugmakers have largely objected to having their products used in executions and have refused to sell to prisons for that goal. "We are calling on state officials to accept the federal court's decision, cancel the frantic execution schedule, and propose a legal and humane method to carry out its executions". That ruling was issued by U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker.

McKesson is asking the Department of Correction to return 10 vials of the drug. "Attorney General Rutledge intends to file an emergency request with the Arkansas Supreme Court to vacate the order as soon as possible".

"If midazolam does not adequately anesthetize plaintiffs, or if their executions are 'botched, ' they will suffer severe pain before they die", Baker wrote in her order Saturday. Supporters have said it is effective, and the U.S. Supreme Court has authorized its use. Alongside her team of 70 attorneys, the state's top prosecutor has worked through Easter weekend to reestablish the execution schedule. "(D) elaying Appellees' executions by even a few days - until Arkansas's supply of midazolam expires - will make it impossible for Arkansas to carry out Appellees' just and lawful sentences". However, Saturday afternoon, the company filed a motion with the state Supreme Court to dismiss the case because Baker had put a hold on the executions. Baker's order comes a day after Arkansas state judge Wendell Griffen issued a broad temporary restraining order [text] in favor of the prisoners.

While regular church services were planned for the holiday, many residents in the capital had been also expecting to attend a special vigil for the condemned later Sunday evening at Little Rock's Trinity Cathedral - which was supposed conclude with a march to the governor's mansion.

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