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Arkansas judge: Order guided by law, not execution views

20 April 2017, 11:59 | Darin Griffith

Arkansas judge: Order guided by law, not execution views

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Arkansas' attempt to carry out its first execution in almost 12 years wasn't thwarted by the type of liberal activist judge Republicans regularly bemoan here, but instead by a state Supreme Court that's been the focus of expensive campaigns by conservative groups to reshape the judiciary.

Arkansas suffered two more legal setbacks Wednesday in its unprecedented plan to carry out multiple executions this month when the state supreme court halted one and a judge later ruled that the state can not use one of its drugs in any executions.

Arkansas originally scheduled eight executions over an 11-day period.

"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 Wednesday night. The sentences of three of the prisoners were stayed in earlier proceedings.

The Arkansas Supreme Court decided in Johnson's favor in a 4-3 split on Wednesday.

The company says it is prohibited by contract with the drug's manufacturer from selling its products to be used in executions. Jeremy Hutchinson, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and is the nephew of the governor.

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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. But courts have blocked three of those executions from going forward. Only one of the seven justices is up for election next year, and judicial rules prevent candidates from announcing their bids until next month. In fact, the court ordered Griffin removed from all death penalty cases after photos emerged of him participating in a rally against the executions. A federal judge this month halted the last of the executions. The groups accused her of being close to trial attorneys and for the court's decision to strike down Arkansas' voter ID law. None of the campaign material mentioned the death penalty.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson scheduled the eight executions to take place before the state's supply of midazolam expires April 30. Goodson had touted her commitment to conservative values, while Kemp said in a campaign ad he would be guided by "prayer, not politics".

The other two justices who favored stopping the executions were Robin Wynne, who was touted as tough on child predators when he was elected in 2014, and Josephine Linker Hart, who ran as a "no-nonsense judge" in 2012. McKesson argued that its use in lethal injections is prohibited under its "supplied agreement", adding that the corrections officer did not say it would be used in executions. Griffen issued a temporary restraining order Friday blocking the state from using its supply of vecuronium bromide after a company said it had sold the drug to the state for medical purposes, not capital punishment.

Why are executions stopped? As state officials prepare to carry out a double execution Thursday ahead of a drug expiration deadline and despite the setback the U.S. Supreme Court delivered late Monday, lawyers for those condemned men look to be taking a different approach: claiming the prisoners are actually innocent.

"In preparation for their scheduled executions, Johnson and Lee were moved Tuesday to the Cummins Unit, the location of the state's execution chamber, a prisons spokesman said Wednesday".



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