Arkansas asks court to lift inmate's stay

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A federal judge in Arkansas issued an injunction Saturday halting the execution by lethal injection of nine inmates, saying the prisoners will likely succeed in demonstrating the state's proposed method of execution is unconstitutional.

(Sherry Simon via AP).

(Stephen B. Thornton /The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP).

Protesters gather outside the state Capitol building on Friday in Little Rock, Ark., to voice their opposition to Arkansas' seven upcoming executions.

(AP Photo/Kelly P. Kissel).

In the brief, the court said that the Arkansas Department of Correction "misled McKesson when it procured the Vecuronium". Crowds gather at a rally opposing Arkansas' upcoming executions, which are set to begin next week, on the front steps of the Capitol Friday, April 14, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark.

Of the 31 states that allow the death penalty, 25 have carried out 450 executions since Arkansas put an inmate to death in 2005, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The first of the executions was scheduled for Monday, but barring a reversal by judges or a higher court, Don Davis will not be put to death that day.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order stopping the state from using the drug of vecuronium bromide for lethal injections. Some states have barred the use of the drug, and courts have reached different decisions on what inmates would have to do to suggest alternative means of execution.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, had scheduled the executions to take place before the state's supply of midazolam, one of its lethal injection drugs, expires at the end of the month.

Lawyers for the Arkansas attorney general's office are reportedly working to overturn recent decisions that halted the state's quick plan to execute eight inmates before the end of the month.

"Reject the state's request for a rushed analysis of this complex record", they wrote. In 2011, he won a seat on the state's 6th Circuit court.

On Friday, death row inmate Bruce Ward's execution was stayed.

This is the first time any state in the U.S. executes so many men in such a short time period since 1977, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

"The setting of four executions within 10 days is gruesome and brutal", Catholic Sister Joan Pytlik told the Arkansas Catholic. The state's attorneys have called the challenge an effort to delay the executions indefinitely and have said they don't have a replacement identified for the drug if it expires.

If they aren't knocked out sufficiently, they would be able to feel the pain of their lungs and hearts stopping, they say.

If the attorney had to rush out to file an emergency petition, it would deprive the inmate of a lawyer to witness the execution, Baker said. They noted that Oklahoma began requiring a week between single executions after flaws were uncovered after Clayton Lockett's death during a midazolam execution in 2014.

Earlier in the day, Rutledge's office also filed an emergency petition seeking to have the Arkansas Supreme Court throw out the restraining order issued Friday evening by Griffen in a lawsuit filed Friday by McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc., a DE drug company. The drug prevents the diaphragm from moving, essentially suffocating the prisoners. After issuing the order, Griffen participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration where he was strapped to a cot.

In a response filed with the court late on Saturday, State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said that all of the issues raised by the condemned inmates had been previously and litigated.

Manufacturers object to states using their drugs in executions, and the Arkansas Department of Corrections said in previous court filings that it doesn't have a way of obtaining more of the sedative midazolam.

Follow Kelly P. Kissel on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kisselAP and go to http://bigstory.ap.org/author/kelly-p-kissel to see his work.

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