LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A federal judge dealt a serious blow Saturday to Arkansas' unprecedented plan to execute eight inmates in an 11-day period, saying the men have the right to challenge a drug protocol that could expose them to "severe pain".
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker on Saturday granted a preliminary injunction requested by the inmates to block the executions.
The state argued that an injunction would delay the executions indefinitely because Arkansas does have a replacement drug if the current one expires.
The state's mixture of drugs used in executions has brought legal challenges.
Griffen's order effectively halts the executions, which had dropped to six after Friday's state Supreme Court order blocking one execution and a federal judge halting another last week, unless it's reversed or the state finds a new supply of the drug.
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. That plan, if carried out, would have marked the most inmates executed by a state in such a short period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
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Two other drug makers on Thursday asked a federal court to block Arkansas from using their drugs for upcoming executions, claiming that doing so would violate contractual controls and create a public health risk, court documents showed.
If the attorney had to rush out to file an emergency petition, it would deprive the inmate of a lawyer to witness the execution, Baker said.
Ward was one of two inmates set to die Monday.
Arkansas was prepared to execute two of the inmates by lethal injection early next week.
Jerry Givens, a former executioner in Virginia who executed 62 people from 1982 to 1999, is part of a group of former corrections staff who sent a letter to Gov. Hutchinson urging him not to go through with the plan.
"I understand how hard this is on the victims' families, and my heart goes out to them as they once again deal with the continued court review; however, the last minute court reviews are all part of the hard process of death penalty cases", Hutchinson said in a statement. One of the executions was scheduled to happen Monday. "After hearing the evidence ... the court is compelled to stay these executions", she said.
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Speaking to ANI, Indian Ambassador to Sweden Monika Mohta, said, "I heard loud noises and saw two people lying on the street". Legal documents show Akilov had asked for Eriksson to be replaced by a Sunni Muslim lawyer, but the court denied his request.
Attorneys argued that Ward, 60, should not be executed because he's mentally incompetent.
Arkansas employs potassium chloride in combination with vecuronium bromide and midazolam.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued the temporary retraining order against the state of Arkansas, stopping the scheduled executions until further notice.
The Arkansas Attorney General's Office issued this statement late Friday: "As a public opponent of capital punishment, Judge Griffen should have recused himself from this case".
"ADC (the Arkansas Department of Correction) personnel used an existing medical license, which is to be used only to order products with legitimate medical uses, and an irregular ordering process to obtain the vecuronium via phone order with a McKesson salesperson", the brief said. The first drug, midazolam, is used to make the person unconscious.
Earlier Friday, the Arkansas Supreme Court blocked the execution of Bruce Ward. Arkansas has not carried out any executions in 12 years. Two other companies - including the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer - also issued sharply critical statements and called for their drugs not to be used in any executions. He deserves a day in court for that, but in Arkansas the rules do not permit that.
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Baker's 101- page order, which you can read here, identifies Eighth Amendment concerns raised by the inmates and the Arkansas Department of Correction viewing policy for the inmates' attorneys as reasons for her decision.