US state judge moves to block lethal injection executions

Indo Asian News Service

Washington, April 15 (IANS) A judge in Arkansas moved to block the US state from carrying out up to seven executions this month before the lethal drugs used in its injections expire, the media reported.

Judge Wendell Griffen of the Pulaski County Circuit Court issued a restraining order on Friday that forbids the Arkansas authorities from using their supply of vecuronium bromide, one of three execution drugs the state planned to use, The New York Times reported.

The judge scheduled a hearing for April 18, about 14 hours after the state had intended to carry out its first execution since 2005.

The Arkansas attorney general's office said the state would appeal the judge's ruling, which threatened to derail a plan that once called for eight executions over the course of 10 days.

Four companies have publicly voiced concerns about how the Arkansas Department of Correction came to stockpile the drugs for its lethal injection cocktail - midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride - but only the McKesson Corporation made an explicit allegation of deception.

Arkansas, the company said, bought 10 boxes of vecuronium bromide, which the state can use to stop a prisoner's breathing.

But the state prison system "never disclosed its intended purpose to us for these products," a lawyer for McKesson, Ethan M. Posner, wrote in a letter obtained by The New York Times.

"To the contrary, it purchased the products on an account that was opened under the valid medical license of an Arkansas physician, implicitly representing that the products would only be used for a legitimate medical purpose."

The state had scheduled two executions for April 17. It also planned to carry out double executions on April 20 and April 24, as well as one on April 27. An eighth execution was stayed by a federal judge.

All of the condemned prisoners are challenging their executions.

The state's midazolam supply is set to expire at the end of April, according to officials.

Drug manufacturers are required by law to put an expiration date on drugs in the US, and after that date they cannot guarantee the drug's effectiveness or safety, reports The Washington Post.

Arkansas acquired its midazolam in 2015, according to state documents.

The drug prompted controversy after it was used in a bungled execution in Oklahoma and in lethal injections that were prolonged and included inmates gasping for breath in Ohio, Arizona and in Alabama, The Washington Post reported.

A lethal injection remains the US' primary method of execution, but due to the shortage, states have also been looking to other methods.

Utah, Tennessee and Oklahoma added or broadened their abilities to use a firing squad, electric chair or nitrogen gas.

--IANS

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