Arkansas court blocks 1 execution set for Thursday

In this Monday evening, April 17, 2017 photo, the sun sets behind clouds over an Arkansas State Police command post outside the Varner Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction near Varner.

The company said that it "would not knowingly sell any prescription drug to [Arkansas Department of Correction] for any goal unless the ADC had a current medical license to file".

Lee and Johnson are the only two inmates among the group of eight to consistently maintain their innocence.

Two more executions are scheduled Thursday night. Anti-death penalty supporter Randy Gardner, right, embraces Abraham Bonowitz, left, after they read on his phone the 11:45 p.m., decision to halt the execution in their taped off "protest cor". The state says the executions need to be carried out before its supply of one lethal injection drug, midazolam, expires on April 30.

The state of Arkansas is asking the U.S. Supreme Court not to block a series of executions scheduled this month beginning Thursday.

"ADC meant to use this product in connection with executions, a fact that was never disclosed to McKesson", the company said in the filing at a state court in Little Rock, the state capital.

"Irreparable harm will result".

According to KARK, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is weighing her legal options in responding to the court's decision to stay Johnson's execution. The state originally wanted to put to death eight men in 11 days but that is down to five after the two won stays Monday and a third was earlier put on hold by a federal judge.

"I know the families of the victims are anxious for a clear-cut explanation from the majority as to how they came to this conclusion and how there appears to be no end to the court's review", Hutchinson said. Three of those inmates have since received stays.

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In its lawsuit, McKesson Medical-Surgical, a unit of McKesson Corp, said the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) acted deceitfully when it purchased another drug, vecuronium bromide, a commonly used muscle relaxant given in extreme doses in executions to paralyze the body and halt breathing.

Gray's ruling mirrors one last week from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who also blocked Arkansas from using the vecuronium bromide. But the Arkansas Supreme Court vacated Griffen's ruling days after he participated in an anti-death penalty rally and reassigned some of his cases. A double execution planned for earlier this week was halted by the state Supreme Court.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Two Arkansas inmates set to die this week in a double execution filed more legal challenges Wednesday, but so far the pair is hitting roadblocks as a judge weighs a new attempt to prevent the state from using one of its lethal injection drugs in what would be the state's first executions in almost a dozen years. Johnson's attorneys have sought more DNA testing that they say could exonerate him.

The other inmate scheduled for Thursday, Ledell Lee, argued unsuccessfully Tuesday in a Little Rock courtroom that he be given a chance to test blood and hair evidence that could prove he didn't beat 26-year-old Debra Reese to death during a 1993 robbery in Jacksonville.

In a 4-3 ruling Wednesday afternoon, the state's highest court issued a stay for Johnson and ordered a new hearing in lower court for Johnson to make his claims. Attorneys for Bruce Ward and Don Davis, who had faced lethal injection Monday night, said the executions should be put off until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a pending case involving inmates' access to independent mental health experts.

"Today, our court gives uncertainty to any case ever truly being final in the Arkansas Supreme Court", Justice Rhonda Wood wrote in a dissenting opinion Wednesday.

Court decisions in recent weeks, both from the state and US Supreme Courts, had granted all eight inmates a temporary reprieve, but some were overturned.

In the drug case, a state prison official testified that he deliberately ordered the drug a year ago in a way that there wouldn't be a paper trail, relying on phone calls and text messages.

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