Arkansas governor disappointed by court ruling


Arkansas' attempt to carry out its first execution in almost 12 years wasn't thwarted by the type of liberal activist judge Republicans regularly bemoan here.

The medical supplier McKesson Corp. refiled its lawsuit Tuesday before a judge in Pulaski County. They include Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson, who are set for execution Thursday night. Lee's execution is now also on hold.

The state originally set eight executions to occur over an 11-day period in April, which would have been the most by a state in such a compressed period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The state did ask the U.S. Supreme Court to lift a stay granted to Davis, but the high court's last-minute refusal ensured he would not enter the death chamber Monday.

A deputy director of the Arkansas prison system says he deliberately ordered an execution drug in a way so there wouldn't be a paper trail.

McKesson Medical-Surgical - a pharmaceutical supply company - claims that the Arkansas Department of Corrections duped them into providing 100 vials of the second drug in the lethal injection protocol, vecuronium bromide, believing they were providing it for medicinal reasons. The company sued to stop Arkansas from using the drug in the planned lethal injections, and a hearing over that issue was underway in Little Rock on Wednesday afternoon.

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Tim Jenkins of McKesson says Griffin never told him the drug would be used for executions.

Attorneys for Bruce Ward and Don Davis, who had faced lethal injection Monday night, said the executions should be put off until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a pending case involving inmates' access to independent mental health experts. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, which came up at a court hearing Wednesday, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions.

There are about 2900 inmates on death row in the U.S., including 63 on the federal death row and another five awaiting execution by the United States military.

"The Arkansas Supreme Court recognized that executing either man, before the Court answers this question. would be profoundly arbitrary and unjust", Scott Braden, an assistant federal public defender for the inmates, said Monday.

Last week, a federal judge in Little Rock blocked the executions, citing concerns with the sedative midazolam that has been used in problematic executions in other states.

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A series of rulings by state and federal judges have cast doubt on whether any of the executions will go forward.

The court hasn't explained its reasoning in any of its one-page stay-of-execution orders for the three inmates.

Arkansas plans to execute Lee and another inmate, Stacey Johnson, on Thursday night. "When I set the dates, I knew there could be delays in one or more of the cases, but I expected the courts to allow the juries' sentences to be carried out since each case has been reviewed multiple times by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed the guilt of each".

A state judge had earlier issued a similar temporary restraining order on vecuronium bromide from McKesson, but the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned that order late Monday.

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