AR Supreme Court Upholds Bruce Ward Stay of Execution

A flurry of late filings are common in the days and hours before a scheduled execution, but adding to the unusual situation in Arkansas, drug companies recently joined the debate, asking courts to block the use of their drugs and, in one case, accusing the state of misleading the company and then going back on a promise to return the drugs.

"It is unfortunate that a USA district judge has chosen to side with the convicted prisoners in one of their many last-minute attempts to delay justice", said Judd Deere, a spokesman for the office.

In her order Saturday, Baker cited troubled lengthy executions in Alabama, Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma that used the sedative midazolam.

While most executions are carried out with little public notice, the scheduled lethal injections in Arkansas have reverberated far beyond the state due to the compressed timetable. The state has not appealed that decision. Arkansas' supply of one of its three lethal injection drugs, midazolam, expires April 30 and Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he wants to use the drugs before they spoil.

According to drugs.com, midazolam is a sedative in the benzodiazepine family that "may cause severe breathing problems (eg, respiratory depression, respiratory arrest), especially when used for sedation in noncritical care settings".

On Friday, McKesson Medical-Surgical Incorporated filed a temporary restraining order in which the pharmaceutical company said the Arkansas Department of Correction "misled McKesson when it procured the vecuronium".

The judge also faulted the state's policy of not letting lawyers have access to the inmates at the time of their deaths and said the inmates could raise challenges about the drugs to be used.

The complaint requests that Judge Griffen be removed from the case and his temporary restraining order stopping the scheduled executions be lifted.

A separate federal court ruling has halted all of the executions.

Arkansas solicitor general Lee Rudofsky countered by telling the 8th Circuit that the inmates are simply trying to run out the clock - "blatantly attempting to manipulate the judicial system and shield themselves from justice".

During a press conference in February, Hutchinson defended his actions, saying it wasn't his "choice" to schedule the executions so close together.

"I understand how hard this is on the victims' families, and my heart goes out to them as they once again deal with the continued court review; however, the last minute court reviews are all part of the hard process of death penalty cases", he said in a statement Saturday.

The executions had originally been expected to start on Monday. Davis, 54, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1992 for killing Jane Daniel.

The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission confirmed Monday an investigation of Griffen is pending following the state Supreme Court referral. A relative of Daniel's declined to be interviewed. But they are on a tight schedule: Executions were scheduled to begin Monday night, and if the legal proceedings take more than two weeks, the midazolam supply will have expired before any of the executions can take place. Two others won stays of execution from state courts, leaving six of the original petitioners now in line for their executions to be carried out. After his lethal injection, the state meant to execute Bruce Ward, 60, who was sentenced to death in October 1990 after being convicted of killing Rebecca Doss, an 18-year-old convenience store clerk.

Ward's attorneys have argued he is a diagnosed schizophrenic with no rational understanding of his impending execution. Judge Baker embraced arguments by the eight prisoners whose executions had been scheduled, plus one other death row inmate, that the state's reliance on midazolam, as an execution drug posed a risk to their constitutional rights.

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