As many as eight state executions scheduled to begin next week in rapid succession may not go ahead as planned, as Arkansas has been blocked from using a drug obtained from McKesson Corporation for lethal use.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order Friday preventing Arkansas from using the drug vecuronium bromide “until ordered otherwise by this Court,”according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, after the supplier told the court it was not sold to the state for executions.
The retail pharmaceutical distributor McKesson said in a statement Thursday night that it complained to the state about the plans to lethally inject the drug, and that Arkansas said it would return the drug. McKesson claims it issued a refund but never received its drug back, the Democrat-Gazette reported.
Judd Deere, a spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said Judge Griffen should not be hearing the case at all.
“As a public opponent of capital punishment, Judge Griffen should have recused himself from this case,” Deere said, according to the Democrat-Gazette. “Attorney General Rutledge intends to file an emergency request with the Arkansas Supreme Court to vacate the order as soon as possible.”
The state Attorney General’s office reportedly will appeal to the state supreme court to reverse the order. But Arkansas’ highest court earlier Friday issued an emergency stay, halting the execution of Bruce Ward, the first of eight death row inmates scheduled to be killed between Monday at 7:00pm and Thursday, April 27.
The other prisoners sentenced to death are Don Davis, Stacey Johnson, Jack Jones, Ledell Lee, Kenneth Williams and Marcel Williams.
The McKesson drug, vecuronium bromide, would be used to stop an inmate’s breathing, according to the Democrat-Gazette. It would be the second drug applied, after a sedative, and before a heart stopper.
The drug company claimed its reputation was at risk over the connection to the lethal injection and would consider “all possible means” to have its product returned, according to its complaint filed Friday.