Sunday, 19 November, 2017

Judge halts Arkansas plan to execute 8 inmates in 11 days

Arkansas inmates ask appeals court to review part of ruling Judge halts Arkansas plan to execute 8 inmates in 11 days
Alfredo Watts | 19 April, 2017, 01:20

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.

The Arkansas Attorney General's office called the decision by U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker "unfortunate" and filed a notice to appeal.

Executions in the United States have fallen steadily for years, hitting their lowest level in 2016 - partly because the drugs used in lethal injection have become so hard to obtain. Griffen, who served 12 years on the state appeals court, previously battled with the panel over remarks he made criticizing President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005.

On Holy Thursday, more than 200 faith leaders from across Arkansas sent a signed letter to Gov. Asa Hutchinson - who is the one who in February scheduled eight men to be executed in a 10-day span - begging him to reconsider the use of capital punishment.

Johnny Depp appeared in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Friday, to lend his support to protesters opposing executions in the state.

Other states have botched executions when using midazolam, producing reports of prolonged deaths that included inmates gasping, coughing and writhing on gurneys.

At a federal court hearing last week, prison officials testified they must conduct the executions with their current batch of midazolam, a sedative that is meant to mask the effects of drugs that will shut down the inmates' lungs and hearts.

The bigger problem, Baker's opinion says, is a prison policy that prohibits more than one of the inmates' attorneys from witnessing the executions.

An Arkansas judge has blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug in its upcoming executions of six men after a company says the drug wasn't sold to be used for capital punishment. 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.

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.

This photo provided by Sherry Simon shows Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen taking part of an anti-death penalty demonstration outside the Governor's Mansion Friday, April 14, 2017 in Little Rock, Ark. "After hearing the evidence. the court is compelled to stay these executions".

On Saturday, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted a preliminary injunction to block the eight planned executions that the state scheduled before the end of the month.

McKesson said it's considering legal action to get the drug back.

Nine death row prisoners brought the case to the state, arguing that midazolam could expose them to "severe pain".

"The threat of irreparable harm to the plaintiffs is significant", Baker wrote in her decision.

This combination of file photos provided by the Arkansas. The state has appealed that ruling to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hadn't weighed in as of mid-afternoon. "(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". He's been on death row since 1990 for strangling a woman in a convenience store bathroom, CNN affiliate KARK-TV in Little Rock reported.