Arkansas vows to keep pushing for executions despite setback

Paterniano Del Favero
Aprile 20, 2017

Arkansas, which last put someone to death 12 years ago, is seeking to resume capital punishment, with a plan that originally called for the executions of eight inmates in 11 days. But a series of legal challenges has spared the lives of both inmates and thrown the state's capital punishment process into chaos.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson had set an aggressive schedule of eight executions by the end of April, when the state's supply of midazolam, a key lethal injection drug, expires.

One inmate, Jason McGehee, had already been granted a temporary stay last week after a parole board recommended clemency. Johnson, a black man, was sentenced for the 1993 murder of a white woman.

A legal battle over the death sentence in the U.S. state of Arkansas has seen skirmishes and retreats, but it's not over yet.

Lawyers for Davis had argued his case should be stayed pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision in another case on whether indigent defendants with mental health issues are entitled to expert witnesses to help them prepare their cases, according to the New York Times.

April 18 US drug wholesaler McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc sued Arkansas a second time on Tuesday, saying the state acted fraudulently in obtaining a drug it intends to administer in a record number of executions this month and demanding it not use the batch to kill people.

Neither of the men were put to death. Monday was the first day the Supreme Court was in session with Justice Neil Gorsuch on the bench. McKesson discovered that the drug was to be used for executions and demanded the state return the drug, promising a refund. The supplier said it refunded the state, which never returned the drug.

Protesters marched outside the governor's mansion Monday.

It also vacated Griffin's restraining order against the state's use of vecuronium bromide. They instead will rely again on whether the sedative midazolam could present a risk of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution. But then an appeals court suspended that injunction, allowing the state to go ahead with using the drug. The appellate judges wrote that "the equivocal evidence recited by the district court falls short of demonstrating a significant possibility that the prisoners will show that the Arkansas protocol is "sure or very likely" to cause severe pain and needless suffering".

"That's something we had sought from the state and federal courts and had been denied, and we're making another run at it and showing that there are new techniques that came into effect literally this year that can provide results that can bear on the case", Rosenzweig said.

"The families have waited far too long to see justice, and I will continue to make that a priority", Rutledge said in a statement. The highest court also overturned a lower court ruling that prevented the state from using another lethal injection drug, which the supplier said was to be used for medical purposes and not executions. The case has been assigned to Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray. Williams was convicted of the 1994 killing of Stacy Errickson.

Baker cited the Eighth Circuit's reversal of her earlier stay in her decision to cancel the hearing.

Both Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, the chair of the United States bishops' domestic justice and human development committee, have spoken out against the planned executions.

Arkansas had scheduled the executions before its supply of midazolam expired at the end of April.

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