Arkansas appeals decision blocking executions


Arkansas originally planned to execute eight inmates between Monday and April 27 and is appealing the ruling.

The Arkansas attorney general's office said the decision strayed from previous cases before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

A federal judge in Arkansas issued an injunction Saturday halting the execution by lethal injection of nine inmates, saying the prisoners will likely succeed in demonstrating the state's proposed method of execution is unconstitutional. "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".

Arkansas' supply of the sedative midazolam, which is the first of three drugs used for lethal injections, expires at the end of April. Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005.

That judge, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, has come under fire for taking part in anti-death penalty protests the same day after issuing his order stopping the use of the drug.

The executions schedule - a pace rarely seen since the death penalty resumed 40 years ago in the United States - has drawn global media attention to Arkansas.

A U.S. federal judge on Saturday blocked a plan by the southern state of Arkansas to execute a series of inmates there over a 10-day period this month, citing a constitutional amendment banning "cruel and unusual punishment". She said the inmates were entitled to challenge the execution process on the grounds it "creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain". The inmates say midazolam is unsuitable as an execution drug, saying it is not a painkiller and could subject them to a cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

His attorneys argued in their lawsuit filed March 29 that Ward is unfit for execution because he suffers from schizophrenia, but Ms. Rutledge accused the defense of trying to game the system.

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McKesson on Saturday said it wants to dismiss the lawsuit it had filed against the state over its use of vecuronium bromide sold by the company that was expected to be used in the upcoming executions.

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 San Francisco-based firm said Baker's ruling removed the imminent danger of the drugs being used for executions.

This 2010 photo provided by the U.S District Court of Eastern District of Arkansas shows U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker. She cited Eighth Amendment concerns raised by the inmates and the Arkansas Department of Correction viewing policy for the inmates' attorneys as reasons for her decision. "Attorney General Rutledge intends to file an emergency request with the Arkansas Supreme Court to vacate the order as soon as possible".

On Saturday, a second judge issued a ruling to halt the executions. He ran twice unsuccessfully for state Supreme Court - including a bid for chief justice in 2004.

Rutledge's office noted Griffen's attendance at a death penalty demonstration outside the Governor's Mansion the same day the ruling was issued.

A federal judge has halted Arkansas' already compromised plan to execute several inmates over an 11-day period starting next week.

At a federal court hearing last week, prison officials testified that they have no new source for the sedative, which is meant to mask the effects of drugs that will shut down the inmates' lungs and hearts.

Protesters gather outside the state Capitol building on Friday in Little Rock, Ark., to voice their opposition to Arkansas' seven upcoming executions.