Arkansas Executions in Legal Limbo

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen placed a temporary restraining order on the state's ability to use the second drug in its lethal injection protocol - vecuronium bromide.

The state's director of the department of corrections, Wendy Kelly, disputed the charge in testimony on Thursday. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the secrecy law helped Arkansas find its new supplies, but officials won't say how.

McKesson, the pharmaceutical company, is seeking to drop its lawsuit and vacate the temporary restraining order against its drug after Baker's temporary injunction, but it plans to bring its lawsuit up again if the 8th Circuit dismissed the stay. Supporters have said it is effective, and the U.S. Supreme Court has authorized its use.

Arkansas' attorney general says she will seek an "immediate review" of a state Supreme Court decision that halted two executions set for Monday, though several other legal obstacles remain for the state to carry out its plan.

Three Arkansas justices dissented, with Associate Justice Shawn Womack writing that Ward and Davis "had their day in court, the jury spoke, and decades of appeals have occurred".

Court orders have stopped Arkansas from executing eight men by lethal injection in 11 days, ruling that one of the drugs used could result in the killings being cruel and unusual punishment.

The story of the Arkansas eight - Bruce Earl Ward, Don William Davis, Stacey E Johnson, Ledell Lee, Jack Harold Jones Jr, Marcel Williams, Jason F McGehee and Kenneth Williams - is now a key strand of the broader death penalty debate.

Meanwhile, the Arkansas Supreme Court also barred a state judge who blocked the multiple execution plan from taking up any death penalty related cases after he participated in a protest where he appeared to mimic a death row inmate about to receive a lethal injection. Lawyers for the inmates had raised questions about their mental competency. The state has appealed that ruling to the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which had not weighed in as of mid-afternoon.

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Ward's attorneys have argued he is a diagnosed schizophrenic with no rational understanding of his impending execution.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted the inmates stays of execution on Saturday, but she rejected their arguments that too little time between executions violated their constitutional rights. He ran twice unsuccessfully for state Supreme Court - including a bid for chief justice in 2004. 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.

"138 people have been released from death row in the USA following a review of their convictions, it is something which has been used to kill innocent people in the past". The high court did not cite any reason for the stay.

The lawyers said it was wrong for Baker to write that the inmates "did not establish a significant possibility of success on the merits on their claim that the compressed execution schedule is contrary to the evolving standards of decency".

The defense answered Monday morning with a new brief, urging the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit to take its time in considering its opinion.

But Rutledge and her staff of more than 70 attorneys worked all day Saturday to overturn those decisions and the state has filed an appeal for each one.

On Saturday, Hutchinson issued a statement on the latest legal wrangling: "I understand how hard this is on the victims' families, and my heart goes out to them", he said.

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