Arkansas still faces legal hurdles in execution plan

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Both Ward and Davis were set to be execute on April 17.

In a split decision, the state's highest court halted the executions of convicted murderers Don Davis and Bruce Ward, who have spent over 20 years each on death row. In the case of lethal injections, the drug was used as part of a cocktail, and in some cases, replaced sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, Newsweek reported.

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The court said it would reassign the judge's case and refer the incident to the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission "to consider whether he has violated the Code of Judicial Conduct". "We continue to call on Governor Hutchinson to use his executive authority to permanently stop this assembly line of death", said James Clark, senior campaigner with Amnesty International USA.

Baker's ruling prompted McKesson Corp., a medical supply company, to ask Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen to vacate his Friday order blocking the executions over the company's claims the vecuronium bromide was sold to the state for medical purposes, not lethal injection.

State courts have also upheld secrecy laws in Arkansas, Georgia and Oklahoma, and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Arizona's drug secrecy in a 2014 case.

Ward's execution was blocked in a third, separate legal move from the state Supreme Court, which issued an emergency stay Friday.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted the inmates stays of execution on Saturday, but she rejected their arguments that there was too little time between executions.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge did not say where she would seek a review, but she could ask either the Arkansas Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court for one.

Arkansas has been at the center of a controversial legal battle because of its plan to try and speed up inmate executions before its supply of the drug midazolam expires. Lawyers for the company said that the blanket stay on executions issued by Saturday morning made the company's suit unnecessary.

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The decision came even as the Arkansas Supreme Court was issuing an order halting two executions set for Monday.

Some states have barred the use of the drug, and courts have reached different decisions on what inmates would have to do to suggest alternative means of execution.

Defense attorney Jeff Rosenzweig, who represents three of the men the state is looking to execute, argues Arkansas' rush to complete the executions is unconstitutional and "reeks of an assembly line".

Davis has already been transferred to the Cummins Unit where the execution chamber is located, according to Arkansas Department of Correction Spokesperson Solomon Graves.

"The threat of irreparable harm to the plaintiffs is significant: If midazolam does not adequately anesthetize plaintiffs, or if their executions are 'botched, ' they will suffer severe pain before they die", Baker wrote.

The 8th Circuit could take up the appeal of Baker's order at any time.

Arkansas says it can not find a new drug supply if the executions are delayed.

Hutchinson said he would prefer to extend the period but that the state might not be able to find another drug to follow out the executions. The six remaining executions are on hold because of Baker's order and because a state circuit judge in Little Rock ordered the state to not use a lethal injection drug until questions are settled on how the state obtained it.

The legal team for the U.S. state of Arkansas has pledged to reverse the legal challenges which stopped them from beginning a series of executions this week.