Conservatives stymied by latest Arkansas execution setback

Posted April 20, 2017

A spokesman for Arkansas attorney general Leslie Rutledge said the state was reviewing its options; the state can ask the Arkansas supreme court to reconsider its decision or appeal to the US Supreme Court, which on Monday opted not to vacate a separate stay involving inmate Don Davis, who had been scheduled to be executed on Monday night. The Arkansas circuit judge temporarily blocked the state from using one of its drugs, vecuronium bromide, a paralytic used in prisons for lethal injections (and for other purposes elsewhere).This ruling came after McKesson, a distributor of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, filed a complaint alleging that the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) "intentionally sought to circumvent McKesson's policies by claiming that the drug would only be used for medical reasons in a health facility".

Gov. Asa Hutchinson expressed frustration with the repeated legal hurdles, and in a statement Wednesday night criticized the state Supreme Court, which has voted 4-3 on the death penalty cases.

It is the first of three drugs used for lethal injections in several states, including Arkansas.

Then, last Friday, Arkansas' Supreme Court suspended, with no explanation, the execution of prisoner Bruce Ward planned for Monday this week.

Court decisions in recent weeks, both from the state and US Supreme Courts, had granted all eight inmates a temporary reprieve, but some were overturned. A sixth inmate, Jason McGehee, received a stay in a different case.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted one of two executions set for Thursday, saying the condemned inmate should have a chance to prove his innocence with more DNA testing. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, which came up at Wednesday's court hearing, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions.

"My job as governor is to work with the attorney general to make sure that justice is accomplished and the law of Arkansas is carried out, and that's what we're working every day to accomplish", he said.

On Monday, the Arkansas Supreme Court blocked the executions of two men set to die that night. In that order, the state supreme court did not elaborate on its reasoning.

The court had indicated earlier this year that it might view the death penalty more favorably, ruling to allow Arkansas to keep many details of its lethal injection drugs secret. A ninth death-row inmate who does not have a scheduled execution date also signed on to the request. A federal judge this month halted the last of the executions. The state's aggressive and potentially unconstitutional plan to execute eight inmates in 11 days is unprecedented, hugely consequential, and has drawn national scrutiny at a time when Americans' support for the death penalty is on the decline.

Lawyers for the inmates were not immediately available after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. On Tuesday, a state judge denied the DNA test for Lee. Meaning if current appeals and court proceedings s are pushed into May, Arkansas won't be able to carry out the executions with the drugs it has on hand. In an amicus brief they filed with the district court, the companies wrote that using their medicines in executions "runs counter to the manufacturers' mission to save and enhance patients' lives".

Lawyers for Arkansas inmates condemned to die Thursday in a planned double execution are claiming they are innocent and one of them says advanced DNA techniques could show he didn't kill a woman in 1993. The state originally wanted to put to death eight men in 11 days but that is down to five after the two won stays Monday and a third was earlier put on hold by a federal judge.