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Arkansas AG: Remove circuit judge from executions case, reverse order

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was published April 15, 2017 at 11:10 a.m.

pulaski-county-circuit-judge-wendell-griffen-on-friday-issued-a-temporary-restraining-order-blocking-arkanas-scheduled-executions

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen on Friday issued a temporary restraining order blocking Arkanas' scheduled executions.

Rally against death penalty at Arkansas Capitol

Click here for larger versions
Photos by Stephen B. Thornton and Emma Pettit

The Arkansas Attorney General on Saturday asked the state's high court to reverse a circuit judge's temporary restraining order blocking executions planned for this month and to remove him from the case.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's filing with the Arkansas Supreme Court says Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen can't be impartial in death-penalty decisions like the one on which he ruled Friday because he is an outspoken critic of capital punishment. Click here to read the full filing 📄 .

Rutledge notes that Griffen attended two anti-death penalty rallies Friday in Little Rock, including one outside the Arkansas Governor's Mansion where he "lay strapped down on a cot to simulate the experience of a condemned prisoner on a gurney."

"Judge Griffen cannot be considered remotely impartial on issues related to the death penalty," Rutledge wrote. "Judge Griffen has demonstrated that he is unlikely to refrain from actual bias regarding matters related to the death penalty, and at a minimum, he cannot avoid the appearance of unfairness and his impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

Griffen's temporary restraining order Friday afternoon barred the state from executing condemned inmates it had planned to put to death beginning Monday.

It came after the state Supreme Court earlier that day stayed the execution of one of seven men scheduled to die by lethal injection before the month's end. And it came a day before a federal judge in a separate decision issued an injunction blocking all the deaths. The state is also appealing that ruling.

Under Arkansas' protocol, midazolam is used to sedate the inmate, vecuronium bromide then stops the inmate's breathing and potassium chloride stops the heart.

Medical supplier McKesson sold the state vecuronium bromide. In a statement Thursday night, McKesson said it complained to the state after learning that Arkansas planned to use the drug for lethal injections. The state said it would return the drug, McKesson said, and the company issued a refund, but the drug was never returned.

McKesson said it was considering "all possible means" to get the drug back and on Friday filed the complaint in Pulaski County that prompted Griffen's order. Click here to read the full restraining order 📄.

Read Sunday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Comments on: Arkansas AG: Remove circuit judge from executions case, reverse order

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HarleyOwner says... April 15, 2017 at 12:08 p.m.

Griffen has a history of being lenient towards thugs.

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NoUserName says... April 15, 2017 at 12:50 p.m.

Griffen needs to be removed from the bench. He frequently comments on events that make the impartiality required for a judge hard to believe. This is but one shining example.

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JakeTidmore says... April 15, 2017 at 1:34 p.m.

Blogger Aqua Blue writes: If a judge states antiabortion beliefs or writes articles against abortion, or participates in antiabortion protests, he is praised by some groups. If a judge expresses statements or actions that are are against capital punishment, he crosses the line for judicial objectivity. Go figure!
^^^^
HO - please cite specific Griffin cases to support your claim.
NUN - see Aqua Blue's stmt above.

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NoUserName says... April 15, 2017 at 2:03 p.m.

What's your point, Jake? That some people are hypocritical idiots? Good for them. And who the hell is Aqua Blue? I think judges should be very careful what they say outside of the court regardless of topic. Griffen fails time and time again. As I said originally, capital punishment is but ONE example. It is not the ONLY example. Therefore, your point is, well, pointless in response to mine. Nice try, though. Well, no, it really wasn't. Sorry.

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PopulistMom says... April 15, 2017 at 2:31 p.m.

In my opinion, Judge Griffin crossed the line by participating in protests and then ruling on the matters. He should have recused. It is a first that I agree with this AG.

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Shutup says... April 15, 2017 at 4:52 p.m.

Judges, prosecutors, attorneys general, who are affiliated with political parties should STEP DOWN NOW.
One of the people slated to be killed in the mass killing scheduled could not possibly have committed the crime convicted of.
So it's ok o kill innocent people as long as the gubmint says so?
Having any exicutioner kill right people is cruel to the exicutioner.
Is there some sort of race to see if ARKANSAS can have the lead in some sort of record book for moronic legal activity?

Stop all that ignorant and self righteous slobbering to kill people you know less than nothing about! You shame yourselves and your state for all to see. You give the impression that both sides of this episode are repugnant ignorant animals who must get their death fix on!!

You damn yourselves as guiltiest than those you accuse and move to kill.

( | suggest removal )

Shutup says... April 15, 2017 at 4:58 p.m.

Judges, prosecutors, attorneys general, who are affiliated with political parties should STEP DOWN NOW.
One of the people slated to be killed in the mass killing scheduled could not possibly have committed the crime convicted of.
So it's ok o kill innocent people as long as the gubmint says so?
Having any executioner kill eight people is cruel to the executioner.
Is there some sort of race to see if ARKANSAS can have the lead in some sort of record book for moronic murderous legal activity?

Stop all that ignorant and self righteous slobbering to kill people you know less than nothing about! You shame yourselves and your state for all to see. You give the impression that both sides of this episode are repugnant ignorant animals who must get their death fix on!!

You damn yourselves as guilty as those you accuse and move to kill.

( | suggest removal )

WGT says... April 15, 2017 at 5:45 p.m.

It is normal for people to have and express opinions. Ms.Rutledge has them. She is expressing them as she sees fit. Why the hell is there a damn issue with Judge Griffen expressing his opinions? How does anyone in government or private operate without bias? Me included. You, too.

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NoUserName says... April 15, 2017 at 5:55 p.m.

Rutledge is the AG and is tasked with upholding the laws of the state. Her comments are part of her appeal. Griffen laid down on a cot and pretended to be an executed criminal during an anti-capital punishment rally. And then he granted a stay (or was the stay before?). If you don't see the difference, there is nothing any of us can say that will change your mind.

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PopulistMom says... April 15, 2017 at 7:53 p.m.

WGT,

Prosecutors and AG's by their nature want to uphold the laws of the state as NoUserName states. Judges are supposed to be impartial. When a judge knows that he has a strong opinion in a case, he should recuse. In this case, the consitutionality of cruel and unusual punishment with respect to the method of execution was in question. A judge who has been actively protesting against capital punishment in these particular cases should not have ruled.

( | suggest removal )

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