A federal judge on Saturday blocked Arkansas’ plan to execute six prisoners in a 10-day span, ruling that the inmates have a constitutional right to challenge the cocktail of drugs used to execute them, USA Today reports.
This comes on the heels of other judges who issued stays of execution for two prisoners, and a Circuit Court judge in Pulaski County, Arkansas issuing a restraining order prohibiting Arkansas from using one of its three execution drugs, the New York Times reported.
Arkansas is in a race against the clock to beat an April 30 deadline before the expiration date of a key drug, midazolam, used in the process.
From USA Today:
The preliminary injunction by U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker, in Little Rock, came a day after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order barring Arkansas from using its supply of another drug — vecuronium bromide — in the executions.
After the sedative midazolam is administered, vecuronium bromide stops the breathing and potassium chloride stops the heart.
“The state of Arkansas does not intend to torture plaintiffs to death,” Baker wrote. “However, the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment is not limited to inherently barbaric punishments. A condemned prisoner can successfully challenge the method of his or her execution by showing that the state’s method ‘creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain’ and ‘the risk is substantial when compared to the known and available alternatives.'”
Arkansas plans to appeal the ruling to continue its plan to execute the first prison on Monday. Meanwhile, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge criticized the ruling, tweeting that it’s unfair to the families of the victims:
USA Today said no state has ever executed that many inmates in such a short span of time.