United States judge halts Arkansas plan for successive executions


"The unnecessarily compressed execution schedule using the risky drug midazolam denies prisoners their right to be free from the risk of torture", said lawyer John C. Williams.

Two judges issued separate orders blocking Arkansas from going forward with a slate of seven executions hastily scheduled to be carried out over the span of less than two weeks. With a 500 mg dose listed in the state's execution protocol, Arkansas expects that the inmates will not be aware they are dying. Actor Johnny Depp, left, stands with former Arkansas death row inmate Damien Echols, before speaking at a rally opposing Arkansas' upcoming executions, which are set to begin next week, on th. The company accused the Department of Correction of misleadingly using its medical director's license, which was to be used only to order products for "legitimate medical uses", to buy the drug. They said that the Arkansas Department of Corrections has been unable to locate more of the vecuronium bromide needed as part of its three-drug protocol, and said that if they can not use the drug obtained from McKesson, "then the executions can not go forward".

Baker ordered Arkansas officials to present "an appropriately tailored viewing policy" by noon Monday, just seven hours before the first scheduled execution.

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

On Friday, the company filed a request with the court to prohibit the use of their drug, Vecuronium Bromide. Upon doing so, the drug company, McKesson Medical Surgical, made a request to pull their lawsuit.

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The state Attorney General's Office said it would seek to have Griffen's order overturn in the state Supreme Court.

The state originally planned to execute eight inmates, but two had previously been blocked by state and federal courts. However, Saturday afternoon, the company filed a motion with the state Supreme Court to dismiss the case because Baker had put a hold on the executions.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 authorized the use of midazolam in executions, rejecting claims the drug couldn't adequately sedate inmates.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch protested against the planned "flurry of state-sanctioned killings unseen in the modern history of the USA death penalty".

The prisoners had argued that the drug protocol violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

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Baker is the second federal judge this year to rule that the three-drug "cocktail" - that includes midazolam - for lethal injections raises constitutional concerns. Pfizer said it had twice asked Arkansas to return the drugs and had considered legal action.

Madan Kharel, who is from the pharmacy school at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore and has doctorates in pharmaceutical sciences and biochemistry, told The Associated Press this week the paralysis caused by the vecuronium bromide should be sufficient to kill the inmates before the executioner delivers a drug to stop the heart.

"Without the medical license, and the associated tacit representation that the controlled drug would only be used for a legitimate medical goal, McKesson would not have sold the vecuronium to ADC", the company said in its lawsuit. Griffen scheduled a hearing Tuesday, the day after the first execution was scheduled.

Since 2000, he noted, Texas had carried out 343 executions, and "Europe hasn't stopped doing business in Texas".

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Late Friday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order stopping the state from using a certain drug for lethal injections. Local media outlets had tweeted photos and video of Griffen appearing to mimic an inmate strapped to a gurney at the demonstration.