Arkansas execution drugs intended for surgery, heart issues

Arkansas suffered two more legal setbacks Wednesday in its unprecedented plan to carry out multiple executions this month when the state supreme court halted one and a judge later ruled that the state can not use one of its drugs in any executions.

Arkansas dropped plans to execute a second inmate, Stacey Johnson, on the same day after the state Supreme Court said it wouldn't reconsider his stay, which was issued so Johnson could seek more DNA tests in hopes of proving his innocence.

The legal issue that halted Monday's executions for Ward and Davis hinged on a separate, broader case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning a defendant's access to independent experts, and attorneys say the justices' ruling could potentially affect the inmates' criminal convictions.

Courts have halted four of those executions.

A federal appeals court had rejected their arguments after a district judge had sustained them. Johnson's attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, wants a court to order new DNA testing on hair found in the victim's apartment and on clothing that prosecutors found at a rest stop and linked to Johnson.

Governor Asa Hutchinson set the unprecedented schedule due to one of the drugs in the state's lethal injection mix expiring at the end of the month.

It was unclear whether the state would appeal Johnson's stay to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now it's unclear whether any executions will proceed.

Lawyers for the state have complained that the inmates are filing court papers just to run out the clock on Arkansas' midazolam supply.

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The inmates are fighting their executions on multiple legal fronts, but there are now no stays in place for five who are set to die this month as the state rushes to beat an expiration date for one of its lethal drugs. The court also barred an anti-death penalty circuit judge from participation in cases or laws involving capital punishment, and lifted his order blocking the state from using a lethal injection drug in the planned executions.

According to court documents, the ADC acquired the drug under false pretense, telling McKesson that it would strictly be used for medical purposes.

The ruling clears one of the main legal hurdles the state faces in its effort to carry out two executions Thursday night.

Two Arkansas courts on Wednesday blocked the state's plans to resume a flurry of executions starting Thursday night.

Their strategy to win stays is in marked contrast to the first two inmates who faced the death chamber and were spared Monday by arguing they should not be put to death because of mental health issues.

Arkansas originally scheduled eight executions over an 11-day period. Once her order was in, the state filed a notice that it would appeal.

A 6th Judicial Court judge has ruled in favor of drug distributor, McKesson Medical-Surgical Incorporated's claim that the state misled the company when the Arkansas Department of Correction purchased 10 vials of 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. Arkansas hasn't executed anyone since 2005.

But while Goodson voted to stay the three executions, so did the conservative-backed candidate who beat her in the chief justice race, Dan Kemp. A court official informally known as the death clerk keeps everyone up to date and communicates often with lawyers for inmates and the states as the date of execution nears.

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