Arkansas still faces legal hurdles in execution plan

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A drug supplier, meanwhile, asked a state judge to lift a temporary restraining order preventing Arkansas from using a paralyzing drug, vecuronium bromide, and sought to drop its lawsuit claiming Arkansas obtained the drug under false pretenses.

The state's director of the department of corrections, Wendy Kelly, disputed the charge in testimony on Thursday.

Protesters started flooding the state capitol in Little Rock on Friday to urge Hutchinson to block the executions. Any decision there would likely also be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

"Don't be surprised if it's a late night" because of court actions, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said before the state high court's actions Monday afternoon.

Prior to Baker's ruling, one of the eight executions was set aside because Arkansas didn't allow for a full 30-day comment period after the inmate won a clemency recommendation.

If court proceedings are pushed into May, Arkansas will not be able to carry out the executions with the drugs it has on hand.

VARNER, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Supreme Court halted the executions of two men originally scheduled to be put to death Monday night, putting another legal roadblock in place in the state's plan to conduct eight lethal injections before its supply of a key drug expires at the end of April.

Two of the executions had been stayed individually before all eight of them were blocked by a state judge and a federal judge. Rutledge said in a status update with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that she believes the state court's ruling was based on a misinterpretation of federal law.

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On Friday, Arkansas Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen, an outspoken opponent of capital punishment, issued an order on Friday blocking the state from using vecuronium bromide after a petition from its maker, McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. Baker, they said, had heard from 17 witnesses and a case that included 1,300 pages of transcripts and 90 exhibits of more than 2,000 pages of documents before she came to a decision.

Finally, on Saturday morning, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker placed a blanket temporary injunction on all of the executions after the inmates' lawyers argued that the controversial lethal injection drug - midazolam - had the potential to cause a cruel and unusual death. In response, state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said all the issues being raised previously had been dealt with and claimed it was a stalling tactic. The U.S. Supreme Court could be asked to tackle a number of questions before the end of the day and, depending on those answers, Ward could walk to the death chamber at Varner for a 7 p.m. execution.

KATV, citing anonymous officials, reports that death row inmate Don Davis has been transferred to the unit where the state's Department of Correction was preparing to carry out executions.

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".

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

The secrecy has helped blunt legal challenges over the lethal injection drugs, which states have had trouble obtaining in recent years because manufacturers don't want their drugs used in executions. "After hearing the evidence ... the court is compelled to stay these executions", she said.

Lawyers for the state have appeals pending before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court.