Federal Judge Halts Executions in Arkansas

A federal judge Saturday blocked Arkansas’ plan to execute six inmates over the course of ten days.

The State had initially planned to execute eight inmates over eleven days just two weeks before its supply of midazolam, a lethal injection drug, is set to expire. But another judge granted stays to two of the inmates.

Nine death row prisoners brought the case to the state, arguing that midazolam could expose them to “severe pain.”  

Federal District Judge Kristine G. Baker in Little Rock also stated in her ruling that the execution team did not have antidotes on hand in case something went wrong with the executions – a possibility, she noted, which has already happened in cases in Alabama, Arizona, Ohio, and Oklahoma when using the same drug.

“The schedule of imposed on these officials, as well as their lack of recent execution experience, causes concern” Baker wrote in her order Saturday.

The Arkansas attorney general’s office said the decision strayed from previous rulings by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It is unfortunate that a U.S. district judge has chosen to side with the convicted prisoners in one of their many last-minute attempts to delay justice,” Jude Deere, an office spokesman, said.

The state of Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005 due to drug shortages and legal challenges.

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