Arkansas judge blocks use of lethal injection drug ahead of scheduled executions

This March 25, 2017, photo shows a sign for the Department of Correction’s Cummins Unit prison in Varner, Ark. 

AP Photo/Kelly P. Kissel

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.  -- An Arkansas judge has blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug in its upcoming executions of six men after a company says the drug wasn’t sold to be used for capital punishment.

The judge’s ruling came as the Arkansas Supreme Court halted the execution of one of two inmates facing lethal injection Monday under the state’s multiple execution plan.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order Friday preventing Arkansas from using its supply of vecuronium bromide in the executions. The executions have been scheduled to start Monday night. 

According to court documents, McKesson Medical-Surgical Incorporated, a medical supply company, filed the temporary restraining order for an “injuctive relief” and for the state of Arkansas to return its property, 10 vials of 20mg Vecuronium bromide, CBS affiliate KTHV reports

In the brief, the court said that the Arkansas Department of Correction “misled McKesson when it procured the Vecuronium.”

“ADC personnel used an existing medical license, which is to be used only to order products with legitimate medical uses, and irregular ordering process to obtain the Vecuronium via phone order with a McKesson sales person,” the brief said.

McKesson has said the prison system bought the drug believing it would be used for medical purposes. The company has said it had been reassured the drug would be returned and even issued a refund, but it never was. 

Judd Deere, a spokesperson for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge should have recused himself from this case because Deere said Griffen is a “public opponent” of the death penalty, WTHV reports.

“Attorney General Rutledge intends to file an emergency request with the Arkansas Supreme Court to vacate the order as soon as possible,” Deere said.

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The Arkansas Supreme Court on April 1th granted an emergency stay for Bruce Ward, one of the 7 death row inmates scheduled to be executed starting on April 17.

WTVH

On Friday, Griffen joined the protests outside the Governor’s Mansion, simulating an inmate being executed.

Griffen’s order came the same day the state Supreme Court halted the execution Bruce Ward. 

Ward, who has been on death row since 1980 for the strangulation death of 18-year-old Rebecca Lynn Doss, was issued a stay of execution Friday night. The court did not clarify why they granted the emergency stay, WTHV reports