Arkansas Executions Halted - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

A federal court judge granted an injunction to stop the executions of seven death row inmates in Arkansas in mid-April—and the back-to-back executions would’ve set the record for the most inmates executed by a state in such a short period since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty.

Arkansas hasn’t executed anyone since 2005 because of drug shortages and legal issues, but Governor Asa Hutchinson wanted to execute the seven convicted men by the end of April because the state’s supply of midazolam expires.

The drug, marketed under the name Versed, is used for anesthesia, sedation, and sleep difficulties; it can be used to treat seizures, as well. It’s on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines when used to treat serious medical conditions.

The drug itself isn’t controversial, although its use in executions is. Midazolam was part of a botched execution in Oklahoma, where convicted murderer Clayton Lockett regained consciousness and began speaking during the procedure.

A lawyer for McKesson, the company that sells vecuronium bromide—another drug used in the lethal cocktail used in executions—said that the state of Arkansas misrepresented its purchase and ordered 10 boxes of the chemical, which is used to stop a person’s breathing.

“It [the state of Arkansas] purchased the products on an account that was opened under the valid medical license of an Arkansas physician, implicitly representing that the products would only be used for a legitimate medical purpose,” McKesson’s lawyer, Ethan Posner, wrote in a statement.

Two judges issued separate orders that temporarily block the executions, although state officials are appealing.

What Do You Think?

Do you think Arkansas was right to rush the executions before their drugs expired, or was the state out of line by ordering an unprecedented number of executions over such a short span of time? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino