Arkansas Execution Plan Again Thrown Into Doubt

by Kelly P. Kissel and Jill Bleed, The Associated Press  on Thursday, Apr. 20, 2017 6:11 am  

The Arkansas Supreme Court's grant of a stay of execution for Stacey Johnson drew a rebuke from Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

LITTLE ROCK — An aggressive effort by the state of Arkansas to carry out its first executions since 2005 stalled for the second time this week as courts blocked lethal injections planned for Thursday, prompting Gov. Asa Hutchinson to express frustration at legal delaying tactics.

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 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. But Arkansas has faced a wave of legal challenges.

The first two inmates scheduled for execution on Monday were spared — one of them by the U.S. Supreme Court minutes before his death warrant expired — and one of the two rulings on Wednesday could scuttle the entire schedule.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray blocked the state from using the drug vecuronium bromide, siding with McKesson Corp., which had argued that it sold Arkansas the drug for medical use, not executions. The company said it would suffer harm financially and to its reputation if the executions were carried out.

Judd Deere, a spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said the state will appeal that ruling.

More: The AP explains how and why the high court can stop executions.

In another setback for the state on Wednesday, the Arkansas Supreme Court voted 4-3 to grant a stay of execution for Stacey Johnson, one of the inmates scheduled to die Thursday, drawing a rebuke from death penalty supporter Hutchinson.

"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.

Four of the eight inmates originally on Hutchinson's schedule have now received stays of execution, leaving four remaining who still could be put to death.

More: Legislators, governor critical of the state Supreme Court halting executions.

It was unclear if Attorney General Leslie Rutledge would appeal the stay of execution for Johnson to the U.S. Supreme Court after the state lost an appeal to the high court on a case involving another inmate Monday night.

 

 

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