Arkansas preparing for executions despite halts from courts


UPDATE 2-Arkansas preparing for executions despite halts from courts

(Adds Arkansas filing to allow for use of execution drug)
    By Steve BarnesLITTLE ROCK, Ark., April 20 (Reuters) - Arkansas prepared to
execute two inmates on Thursday despite court rulings that have
stymied the U.S. state's plan to carry out multiple lethal
injections before one of the drugs it uses expires at the end of
    The state was seeking last-minute reversals of rulings
blocking it from executing convicted murderers Stacey Johnson
and Ledell Lee.
    The two inmates were transferred to the Cummins Unit in
Grady, which houses the state's death chamber, ahead of the
lethal injections scheduled for 7 p.m. CDT (0000 GMT) and about
8:15 p.m. CDT (0115 GMT on Friday), prisons spokesman Solomon
Graves said.
    Preparations will continue "pending the outcome of appeals
at both the state and federal levels," Graves said.
    Arkansas, which has not conducted an execution in 12 years,
at one point had planned to execute eight inmates in 11 days,
the most of any state in as short a period since the U.S.
Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
    Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson set that schedule because
one of the three drugs used in Arkansas executions, the sedative
midazolam, expires at month's end.
    The plan prompted an unprecedented flurry of legal filings
and raised questions about U.S. death chamber protocols and
lethal injection drug mixes. Back-to-back executions set for
Monday were indefinitely halted.
    On Wednesday, a state circuit judge blocked the use of
another of the drugs Arkansas acquired for lethal injections,
after U.S. pharmaceutical wholesaler McKesson Medical-Surgical
Inc accused the state of obtaining the muscle relaxant
vecuronium bromide under false pretences. [nL1N1HR25I]
    The McKesson Corp <MCK.N> unit said in a lawsuit that it
would not have sold the drug to the Arkansas prison system had
it known it would be used in executions. It is demanding the
drug be returned or confiscated.
    Arkansas officials say they cannot obtain the drug from
another source. Should McKesson prevail, all pending executions
would be blocked, the state said in court papers.
    Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican, filed an
emergency motion with the Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday
seeking permission to proceed with the executions using the
    The state's highest court has issued a stay for Johnson, who
is seeking DNA testing his lawyers say will clear him of the
1993 murder and sexual assault of Carol Heath.
    Lee was convicted and sentenced to death for beating Debra
Reese to death with a tire iron in 1993.
    Even if Arkansas wins reversals at the state level, the
eight inmates who had been scheduled to be put to death this
month have three requests for reprieves at the U.S. Supreme

Numbers and methods of U.S. executions
U.S. states considering alternative execution methods face legal
hurdles    [L1N1HQ1J5]
 (Reporting by Steve Barnes in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Jon
Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Writing by Jon Herskovitz and Steve
Gorman; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jonathan Oatis)
 ((; +1 512 285-0178; Reuters


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