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Arkansas executions are temporarily on hold

21 April 2017

The state has already been thwarted in its attempt to carry out what have been criticized as "conveyor belt"-like executions between April 17 and April 27". Anti-death penalty supporters Abraham Bonowitz, left, and Randy Gardner wait near their taped off "protest corral" outside the Varner Unit late Monday, April 17, 2017 near Varner, Ark.

The state originally set eight executions over an 11-day period in April, which would have been the most by a state in such a compressed period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. On Wednesday, the company said a state circuit court judge issued a verbal order prohibiting Arkansas from using this drug in executions, and a written order followed on Thursday morning.

Lawyers for the state of Arkansas have started their appeal of a decision that would prevent its executioners from using one of the three drugs in its lethal injection protocol.

If Gray's ruling is vacated by the Arkansas Supreme Court or the state obtains a different supply of vecuronium bromide, the executions of four other inmates who have not received individual stays could potentially go forward.

Johnson's attorneys requested additional DNA testing on evidence that they say could prove his innocence in the 1993 rape and killing of Carol Heath.

"In preparation for their scheduled executions, Johnson and Lee were moved Tuesday to the Cummins Unit, the location of the state's execution chamber, a prisons spokesman said Wednesday".

Arkansas prepared to execute two inmates on Thursday despite court rulings that have stymied the US state's plan to carry out multiple lethal injections before one of the drugs it uses expires at the end of April.

The legal challenge is one of several filed by the inmates. They include Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson, who are set for execution Thursday night.

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A deputy director of the Arkansas prison system says he deliberately ordered an execution drug in a way so there wouldn't be a paper trail.

However, the state of Arkansas still does not have to return the drugs to McKesson Medical-Surgical Incorporated. According to a state prison official's testimony in the drug case, he "deliberately ordered the drugs a year ago in a way that there wouldn't be a paper trail, relying on phone calls and text messages".

Tim Jenkins of McKesson says Griffin never told him the drug would be used for executions.

The Arkansas attorney general's office is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reject execution stays for a group of death row inmates, including five who are set for lethal injection over the next two weeks.

The ruling clears one of the main legal hurdles the state faces in its effort to carry out two executions Thursday night. The filing says: "As is oft said, justice delayed is justice denied". The typical dose is up to.1 mg/kg intravenously, or 8.5 mg for the typical inmate set to die this month.

Last week, a federal judge in Little Rock blocked the executions, citing concerns with the sedative midazolam that has been used in problematic executions in other states. In that order, the state Supreme Court did not elaborate on its reasoning. A double execution planned for earlier this week was halted by the state Supreme Court. A federal judge this month halted the last of the executions.

The judge filed her order Thursday after the state complained to the Arkansas Supreme Court that she was taking too much time.

But while Goodson voted to stay the three executions, so did the conservative-backed candidate who beat her in the chief justice race, Dan Kemp.

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Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican, filed an emergency motion with the Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday seeking permission to proceed with the executions using the drug.

Arkansas plans to execute Lee and another inmate, Stacey Johnson, on Thursday night.

But unlike the earlier decisions, this stay came from a court that had shifted to the right in recent elections.

Arkansas officials have defended the schedule because they have no guarantee of obtaining new lethal-injection drugs amid an ongoing shortage, and they have to carry out the death sentences of eight men convicted of capital murder.

It's unclear whether the new execution obstacles would have any political fallout for the court.

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.

A stay remains in place for one of the inmates on an unrelated issue. Because the state's supply reaches its expiration date April 30, Arkansas scheduled eight executions before then.

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