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Lawyers: Don't rush Arkansas executions decision
18 April 2017, 02:22 | Candice Butler
Arkansas had asked a USA appeals court earlier on Monday to allow the eight executions before the state's lethal-injection drugs expire at the end of April.
In state court on Friday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen blocked the state from using its supply of vecuronium bromide after a distributor complained prison officials used false pretenses to obtain it. Rutledge said in a status update with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that she believes the state court's ruling was based on a misinterpretation of federal law.
Arkansas is making preparations for a series of executions that, as of late morning Monday, it is legally barred from carrying out. "Judge Griffen was protesting the very executions he had just enjoined".
Federal and state judges on Friday and Saturday temporarily blocked the execution of eight inmates in Arkansas, but the state is nonetheless preparing to execute two of the inmates Monday evening.
Bruce Earl Ward and Don William Davis Jr. had been scheduled to die Monday night, the first of four double executions set by Gov. Asa Hutchinson for an 11-day period.
The motion argues that a previous ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker to stay the executions should be "immediately reversed".
The inmates lost on some claims, including one that their lawyers couldn't provide adequate counsel under the state's schedule and that the tight timetable itself was improper.
In her order, Baker said there was a significant possibility that the inmates could successfully challenge the state's execution protocol.
Each of these drugs has prompted controversy in this case, but none more than midazolam. At least six states have used the drug for executions since 2013, and less than 2 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its use as an execution drug.
Writing in a dissent, Associate Justice Shawn Womack lamented the court's ruling.
Baker pointed to these executions in her order, saying that testimony on these bungled or extended lethal injections "is personal and rings true".
The state's director of the department of corrections, Wendy Kelly, disputed the charge in testimony on Thursday.
"The Attorney General is considering options as to how to proceed", Judd Deere, a spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said in a statement.
The other drugs involved have also prompted criticism. A pharmaceutical supplier alleges that the state bought the drug deceptively, actively misleading the seller about what it would be used for.
Arkansas says it can not find a new drug supply if the executions are delayed. The state has appealed. The company later said it was withdrawing its complaint after Baker's order staying all of the executions, though it vowed to keep trying to get its drug back and suggested it could file another complaint if the federal stay is lifted. "After hearing the evidence ... the court is compelled to stay these executions", she said.
During a press conference in February, Hutchinson defended his actions, saying it wasn't his "choice" to schedule the executions so close together. He wrote that Ward and Davis have had "decades of appeals" and that the victims' families deserved closure.
The executions had originally been expected to start on Monday.
Arkansas appealed in those cases and also hoped to dissolve a separate stay for Ward that had been issued by the Arkansas Supreme Court. A relative of Daniel's declined to be interviewed.
The inmates are all convicted murderers, including one found guilty of raping and murdering a mother of two and another convicted in the torture-killing of a 15-year-old boy.
A federal judge halted Arkansas' plans for execution. Ward's lawyers had argued he is a paranoid schizophrenic incapable of comprehending his death, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. Arkansas is appealing and seeking to have that stay vacated. Two others won stays of execution from state courts, leaving six of the original petitioners now in line for their executions to be carried out.
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