Courts weighing whether Arkansas executions can happen

Apr 18, 2017, 01:34

VARNER, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Supreme Court halted the executions of two men originally scheduled to be put to death Monday night, putting another legal roadblock in place in the state's plan to conduct eight lethal injections before its supply of a key drug expires at the end of April.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge made it clear the state was unwilling to concede. The execution of six death row inmates was scheduled to begin on Monday.

Manufacturers object to states using their drugs in executions, and the Arkansas Department of Corrections said in previous court filings that it doesn't have a way of obtaining more of the sedative midazolam. She added that the men had "shown a significant possibility that they will succeed on the merits of their method of execution claims based on midazolam". Justices reassigned any death penalty cases from Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen, who banned the state from using a lethal injection drug a supplier said was misleadingly obtained.

Baker granted a temporary injunction for all eight inmates, halting their executions on grounds including that the state's protocols violate US constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. But the ruling did not change the situation because Baker's order had already halted all the executions.

The fight in Arkansas, which has not held an execution in 12 years, came after USA executions fell to a quarter-century low in 2016 and as several capital-punishment states have been sidelined due to problems with lethal injection drugs and legal questions over their protocols. 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. The judge did not agree with all of the inmates claims, including their argument that a quickened pace of executions would likely lead to a botched execution, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Prior to Baker's ruling, one of the eight executions was set aside because Arkansas didn't allow for a full 30-day comment period after the inmate won a clemency recommendation.

Rutledge's office said in the motion that while the lawyers "suggest longer proceedings are necessary, they do not point to anything they would do differently in a longer proceeding". The company, along with other pharmaceutical makers, objects to its drug being used in executions. A suit was brought against the protocol in 2015 but later "voluntarily dropped" to avoid litigating it in federal court, Rutledge wrote.

LITTLE ROCK - Lawyers for inmates facing a series of double executions in Arkansas say a federal appeals court should schedule oral arguments as it considers whether to dissolve or preserve the execution stays imposed by a lower court judge.

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On Saturday, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted a temporary injunction for all eight inmates that halted their executions on grounds including that the state's protocols violate U.S. constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. People gather at a rally opposing the state's upcoming executions, on the front steps of Arkansas' Capitol, Friday, April 14, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark.

Arkansas says it can not find a new drug supply if the executions are delayed.

The state has appealed both rulings and asked the higher courts to work quickly to review the decisions.