US judge halts plan to execute 8 inmates

2017-04-15 22:19
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Little Rock - A federal judge on Saturday upended Arkansas' unprecedented plan to execute eight inmates in an 11-day period, saying the men have the right to challenge prison procedures that could expose them to "severe pain".

The state still hopes to begin the executions on Monday and the attorney general's office promised an appeal to overturn US Kristine Baker's order. Arkansas' supply of one of its lethal injection drugs, midazolam, expires April 30 and Gov Asa Hutchinson has said he wants to use the state's supply before it spoils.

The Arkansas Department of Corrections has said in court filings it has no source for obtaining additional midazolam.

Another federal judge and the state Supreme Court had already granted stays to two of the eight inmates, reducing the number of executions to six within an 11-day period. Only Texas has executed six prisoners in a shorter timeframe since the US Supreme Court authorised the death penalty again.

Legal challenges

In her order, Baker said there was a significant possibility that the inmates could successfully challenge the state's execution protocol. She said that while the state demonstrated it does not plan to torture the inmates, the inmates had a right to challenge the method of execution in an attempt to show it "creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain." She also noted that the execution team did not have antidotes on hand in case there was trouble with any of the drugs.

"The schedule imposed on these officials, as well as their lack of recent execution experience, causes concern," she wrote.

Arkansas hasn't executed an inmate since 2005 because of drug shortages and legal challenges and  hasn't carried out a double execution since 1999.

The lawsuit is among a flurry of challenges the inmates have filed to halt the executions.

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