In this Monday evening, April 17, 2017 photo, the sun sets behind clouds over an Arkansas State Police command post outside the Varner Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction near Varner.
Arkansas has said it will appeal a court ruling that bars the USA state's use of a lethal injection drug and effectively puts a stop to its plans to execute eight prisoners in 11 days.
The state acquired midazolam, one of the three drugs it intends to use on its series of executions, in 2015. One of the eight executions was stayed after judge listened to the parole board's suggestion of upholding the man's life sentence.
"The families have waited far too long to see justice, and I will continue to make that a priority", Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said late Monday. The companies, pressuring Arkansas to return the medications to be used in the lethal injections, recognize the public-relations implications of using their drugs on death row.
The execution of eight death row inmates would be the most by any USA state in such a short period since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
Tim Jenkins of McKesson says Griffin never told him the drug would be used for executions. The lethal injection drug also prolonged executions in Ohio, Arizona and Alabama, leading the U.S. Supreme Court to vote on the legality of the drug in 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.
Arkansas officials have said they are unable to obtain the necessary drug from any other source, and have acknowledged in court papers that should McKesson prevail, all pending executions would be effectively blocked.
"When I set the dates, I knew there could be delays in one or more of the cases, but I expected the courts to allow the juries' sentences to be carried out since each case had been reviewed multiple times by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed the guilt of each", Hutchinson said in a statement.
Rosenzweig, who also represents inmates Kenneth Williams and Jack Jones, said their defense would center on the use of midazolam rather than an insistence on innocence.
"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. A federal judge this month halted the last of the executions.
Moments before Gray's ruling, the Arkansas supreme court halted the execution of one of two inmates scheduled to die on Thursday, saying that the condemned prisoner should have a chance to prove his innocence with more DNA testing. Attorneys for the inmate filed a request Wednesday for a stay with the state's highest court. Both men are scheduled for execution on April 20, 2017. The peak of 98 executions in 1999 was met with tighter court restrictions. The state and its lawyers say the inmates are seeking any legal approach they can find in their efforts to avoid death.
Their strategy to win stays is in marked contrast to the first two inmates who faced the death chamber and were spared Monday by arguing they should not be put to death because of mental health issues.
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