Arkansas AG Rutledge Works to Dismantle Roadblocks to Executions

Caroline Beck
April 18, 2017

Midazolam has been used in a number of high-profile botched executions, including instances where inmates did not appear to be fully sedated when they received the painful second and third drugs in the cocktail.

Arkansas and at least a dozen other states with the death penalty have been keeping secret how and where they are getting the lethal drugs for their death chambers - information that had always been publicly available. So hurried is Arkansas's timetable that witnesses to the executions - state law requires that six "respectable citizens" attend each one - are in short supply.

Numerous executions have been placed in legal limbo in recent years after challenges based on the source of the drugs. The U.S. high court is set to hold oral arguments on April 24.

Several states have been barred by federal courts from injecting the chemical compound, including MS and OH, though the Supreme Court Justices upheld the right to use the drug in a 2015 case in a 5-4 decision. She also noted that the execution team did not have antidotes on hand in case there was trouble with any of the drugs.

Acting on Friday, the Arkansas Supreme Court stayed the execution of one of the inmates, Bruce Ward, who was scheduled for lethal injection on Monday.

With the clock ticking, Arkansas officials are fighting to carry out an unprecedented seven executions in 10 days and battling a flurry of court rulings that have thrown up roadblocks just in the last few days.

The inmates' attorneys argued that their clients were denied access to independent mental health experts, saying Ward has a lifelong history of severe mental illness and that Davis has an IQ in the range of intellectual disability.

The inmates asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to take its time reviewing transcripts and rulings, rather than complete their work in two days as the state has asked. After issuing the order, Griffen participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration where he was strapped to a cot.

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Arkansas says the drug would be used to calm the inmates to the point that they will not be aware they are about to die.

Then on Saturday, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a temporary injunction blocking the execution of all eight inmates.

Ward's attorneys say he's a diagnosed schizophrenic with no rational understanding of his impending execution. The governor was monitoring the courts and planned to visit with the attorney general and Arkansas Department of Correction leaders to discuss any next steps.

Lawyers for the U.S. state of Arkansas have vowed to overturn court orders preventing them from beginning an unprecedented series of executions this week. He had been scheduled to die Monday night under the state's plan to put eight inmates to death before the end of the month. The court has not ruled on the state's request to reconsider that stay.

Information about the drug's supply chain and handling is essential to ensure that inmates won't be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment. The high court did not cite any reason for the stay.

"This is an issue which would resonate in Ireland because in the past year, we had the first ever presidential pardon for a person executed in this state". The Attorney General's office plans to appeal the decision to the Eighth Circuit.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson set the execution dates in February after Rutledge determined that the eight men had exhausted their legal challenges.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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