Conservatives stymied by latest Arkansas execution setback

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One of the two executions set for Thursday has been halted by the Arkansas Supreme Court, according to CBS affiliate KTHV.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted one of two executions set for Thursday, saying the condemned inmate should have a chance to prove his innocence with more DNA testing.

The legal setbacks at one point prompted the state's previous attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, to declare Arkansas' death penalty system "broken".

Ledell Lee, who had also been scheduled for execution Thursday, is still seeking a stay in a separate case.

The possibility that justices could continue sparing the lives of the remaining killers scheduled to die this month has left death penalty proponents wondering how much longer executions will remain in a holding pattern. Pfizer's official policy does not allow for the use of its drugs in executions. The state did ask the U.S. Supreme Court to lift a stay granted to Davis, but the high court's last-minute refusal ensured he would not enter the death chamber Monday.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas prepared again Thursday to conduct its first executions since 2005, wary and tired after a series of court decisions gutted its unprecedented plan to put eight men to death before the end of the month.

McKesson Corp., a San Francisco-based medical supply company, "claimed that the state deliberately circumvented them to use the drugs for executions".

In the drug case, a state prison official testified that he deliberately ordered the drug previous year in a way that there wouldn't be a paper trail, relying on phone calls and text messages. He said he didn't keep records of the texts, but a McKesson representative did.

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On Wednesday, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Alice Gray agreed with McKesson and issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) barring use of one of the lethal injection drugs, namely Vecuronium bromide. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, which came up at Wednesday's court hearing, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions.

Two inmates are scheduled for execution Thursday night with three more executions planned for next week.

That means that death row inmates could seem unresponsive but actually feel like they're suffocating after the second drug, a paralytic, is introduced.

Rutledge's 33-page filing came after attorneys for death-row inmates filed with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a review of a federal judge's stay that was later overturned by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The judge facing re-election, Courtney Goodson, lost her bid for chief justice a year ago after conservative groups blanketed the state with ads attacking her.

Two more inmates - Don Davis and Bruce Ward - were scheduled to be executed this past Monday, April 17, but were not. If Gray's ruling is vacated by the Arkansas Supreme Court or the state obtains a different supply of vecuronium bromide, the executions of four other inmates who haven't received individual stays could potentially go forward. On Tuesday, a state judge denied a motion from Lee's lawyers for DNA testing. There are no current stays blocking those executions, but both inmates have pending court challenges.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson originally scheduled eight executions to occur before the end of April, when one hard-to-acquire lethal injection drug expires.

A pair of death-row inmates scheduled for lethal injection Thursday evening have been transferred to the Cummins Unit, the location of the state's execution chamber, a prisons spokesman said Wednesday.

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