Arkansas suffers 2 setbacks to multiple execution plan

The ruling came moments after the Arkansas Supreme Court granted a stay to one of two men scheduled for execution Thursday night.

The state had originally planned to execute eight death row inmates in four pairs in a span of 11 days, starting on April 17 and ending on April 27. Legal rulings have put some of the others in doubt.

The decision by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to not appeal Johnson's stay leaves only one inmate facing execution Thursday night.

The state originally planned to carry out eight executions to occur over an 11-day period in April, which would have been the most by a state in such a compressed period since the USA supreme court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. In fact, the court ordered Griffin removed from all death penalty cases after photos emerged of him participating in a rally against the executions.

The inmates are fighting their executions on multiple legal fronts, but there are now no stays in place for five who are set to die this month as the state rushes to beat an expiration date for one of its lethal drugs.

Arkansas suffered two more legal setbacks Wednesday in its unprecedented plan to carry out multiple executions this month when the state supreme court halted one and a judge later ruled that the state can not use one of its drugs in any executions. But the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that order Monday, and the inmates appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

An inmate set to die Thursday night is asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to block his execution so he can pursue more DNA tests in hopes of proving his innocence. Outside groups and the candidates spent more than $1.6 million a year ago on a pair of high court races that were among the most fiercely fought judicial campaigns in the state's history. A McKesson salesman presented the texts at the court hearing, which showed no mention or indication that the drug would be used for lethal injections. The company said it would suffer harm financially and to its reputation if the executions were carried out.

The broader fight in Arkansas centers on the state's aggressive plan to carry out executions for the first time since 2005.

Judge Alice Gray ruled in favor of the drug distributor, McKesson Medical-Surgical Incorporated's claim that the state misled the company when the Arkansas Department of Correction purchased the drug, vecuronium bromide. McKesson Corp. says the state obtained the drug under false pretenses and that it wants nothing to do with executions.

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson scheduled the eight executions to take place before the state's supply of midazolam expires April 30.

Three justices dissented from the decision to stay Johnson's execution. Their one-paragraph order did not elaborate on why.

A judge in Little Rock has blocked the state from using one of the drugs in Arkansas' execution protocol because a company says the state misled it into providing the drug for lethal injections.

"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".

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

Already, Arkansas appears to have given up on three of the planned eight executions. A ninth death-row inmate who does not have a scheduled execution date also signed on to the request. Deere said the state was reviewing its options.

The court noted that the inmates "have a long history of filing and dismissing claims to manipulate the judicial process and prevent Arkansas from carrying out their executions".

Her injunction was first filed from the bench and the written order was not filed until late Thursday morning, on the heels of Rutledge's writ of certiorari seeking a review of the TRO and an emergency stay of the order.

While the latest court rulings could be overturned, Arkansas now faces an uphill battle to execute any inmates before the end of April, when one of its lethal injection drugs expires. The state can ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to reconsider its decision or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which on Monday opted not to vacate a separate stay involving inmate Don Davis. Wave after wave of legal challenges followed.

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