Little Rock, Arkansas. Governor Asa Hutchinson was slapped down by a circuit court Judge who has ruled that he can not go on a killing spree and execute 8 prisoners on death row in assembly line fashion.
The Arkansas state prison board plans to execute eight men by the end of April have fallen apart, after a judge banned the use of a lethal injection drug.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order stopping Arkansas from using its supply of vecuronium bromide – a muscle relaxant – after a company said it had sold the drug to the state for medical purposes, not capital punishment.
Judge Griffen’s order effectively halts the executions of Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams, Stacey Johnson, Ledell Lee, Don Davis, and Jack Jones.
The Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office said she planned to file an emergency request with the state Supreme Court to overturn the order, saying Judge Griffen should not handle the case.
On Friday in a seperate court action, an Arkansas state Supreme Court Justice also ordered a block on the execution of Bruce Ward, while another judge has halted another planned execution in response to Hutchinson’s execution plans.
The unprecedented number of executions had been scheduled to take place within the space of 11 days in an apparent attempt to use the state’s supply of midazolam, one of three drugs in the lethal injection protocol, which are to expire at the end of April.
The Arkansas attempt to execute the inmates in such a short space of time, has drawn condemnation from hundreds of death penalty opponents who rallied at the Capitol on Friday. The rally was attended by actor Johnny Depp and by Damien Echols, who spent nearly 18 years on Arkansas’ death row himself, falsely accused of a crime.
He and two other men, known as the West Memphis Three, were freed in 2011 in a plea deal in which they maintained their innocence.
Mr Echols, who now lives in New York, said: “I didn’t want to come back, but when I heard about the conveyor belt of death that the politicians were trying to set in motion, I guess I knew I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t come back and try to do something.”