Arkansas inmates ask appeals court to review part of ruling

Posted April 20, 2017

"Immediate reversal is warranted", Arkansas' solicitor general, Lee Rudofsky, wrote Saturday in the state's appeal to the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit.

This is the first time any state in the USA executes so many men in such a short time period since 1977, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. The inmates have filed a flurry of lawsuits in state and federal court to halt the executions. They say in their filings that the stays should be reversed immediately so Arkansas can carry out the executions before one of its lethal injection drugs expires at the end of the month. Arkansas hasn't executed an inmate since 2005 because of drug shortages and legal challenges.

A federal judge in Arkansas blocked the execution of eight inmates expected to be killed over a period of 11 days. Attorneys for the inmates said no state has attempted to conduct executions at the pace proposed by Arkansas in at least half a century.

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.

Lawyers for the inmates challenged the use of midazolam, which was involved in flawed executions elsewhere, as well as the shortened timeframe. The inmates say midazolam is unsuitable as an execution drug, saying it is not a painkiller and could subject them to a cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution. She said the prisoners were entitled to challenge the execution method on grounds it "creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain". Additionally, Judge Wendell Griffen of the Pulaski County Circuit Court issued a restraining order on forthcoming executions, after a drug supplier filed a complaint accusing the Arkansas Department of Corrections of failing to disclose the "intended purpose" upon purchasing 10 boxes of the drug, vecuronium bromide. The company, along with other pharmaceutical makers, objects to its drug being used in executions. "It is unfortunate that a US district judge has chosen to side with the convicted prisoners in one of their many last-minute attempts to delay justice", Judd Deere, a spokesman for Rutledge said in a statement.

Judd Deere, a spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said Griffen should not have heard the case at all.

In a response filed with the court late on Saturday, State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said that all of the issues raised by the condemned inmates had been previously and litigated.

"These individuals, these prisoners on death row, who are scheduled for execution, they received the sentences that juries gave them, and that's what we are working toward", Rutledge said. But the ruling did not change the situation because Baker's order had already halted all the executions.

This photo provided by Sherry Simon shows Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen taking part of an anti-death penalty demonstration outside the Governor's Mansion Friday, April 14, 2017 in Little Rock, Ark. After that, officials say finding a supplier willing to allow the drug to be used to kill someone will be exceptionally hard. Local media outlets had tweeted photos and video of Griffen appearing to mimic an inmate strapped to a gurney at the demonstration.

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.

Protesters gather outside the state Capitol building on Friday in Little Rock, Ark., to voice their opposition to Arkansas' seven upcoming executions.