Arkansas court blocks 1 execution set for Thursday

FILE- In this Aug. 18 2015 file

FILE- In this Aug. 18 2015 file

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.

Gray sided with McKesson Corp., which had argued that it sold Arkansas the drug for medical use, not executions, and that it would suffer harm financially and to its reputation if the executions were carried out.

The company says it is prohibited by contract with the drug's manufacturer from selling its products to be used in executions.

The lawsuit complains that state officials continued to act egregiously when McKesson discovered its mistake and tried to get the drug shipment back.

Arkansas officials have said they are unable to obtain the necessary drug from any other source, and have acknowledged in court papers that should McKesson prevail, all pending executions would be effectively blocked. 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. They asked Gray on Wednesday to either order the agency to return them or at least bar Arkansas from using them until the ownership can be decided at trial.

Also still pending before the U.S. Supreme Court is an appeal by all eight prisoners contending that the compressed execution schedule increases the likelihood of a botched lethal injection. In 2015, justices upheld Oklahoma's execution protocol that used the same drug. Midazolam is a sedative used to render the inmate unconscious before the killing drugs are administered.

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, Ark. The company is demanding that the drug either be returned or impounded.

Earlier this week, McKesson said it refunded the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) for the drug after it agreed to return the supplies. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions.

Griffin told the judge that he explicitly told Jenkins about the intended goal of the drug.

He also said the two had several communications afterward about how the purchase needed to be kept secret under state law.

The only Jennifer Dean she knows of works for Arkansas Community Correction, which administers the state's probation and parole departments, Kelley told the judge.

The state had earlier planned to execute eight inmates over 10 days starting April 17, before Arkansas' supply of the drug runs out at the end of the month. "It is inconceivable that this court, with the facts and the law well established, stays these executions over speculation that the (U.S.) Supreme Court might change the law".

The Supreme Court has the final say on nearly every execution, and the justices reject all but a few emergency appeals by inmates.

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.

The possibility that justices could continue sparing the lives of the remaining killers scheduled to die this month has left death penalty supporters including Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson frustrated and critical of the high court.

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