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Appeals court overturns federal judge's order blocking Arkansas executions

By Eric Besson

This article was originally published April 17, 2017 at 5:07 p.m. Updated April 17, 2017 at 5:10 p.m.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday reversed a federal judge's decision granting a temporary injunction to eight inmates that Arkansas plans to execute this month.

The court found that the evidence did not show the state's protocol for executing prisoners is very likely to "cause severe pain and needless suffering."

"Even assuming a risk of pain from the current method," the inmates did not provide a "known and available alternative" to Arkansas' execution method that would significantly reduce that risk, the opinion says.

Inmates argued that the use of the sedative midazolam risked inflicting severe pain on the inmates over concerns that the drug would not render inmates unconscious before the second and third drugs, a paralytic and the heart-stopping potassium chloride, are administered.

Jeff Rosenzweig, an attorney representing some of the inmates, said they would appeal the decision o the U.S. Supreme Court "as soon as possible."

In ruling for the inmates early Saturday morning, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker found they offered multiple available alternative execution methods.

Those included replacing midazolam with a barbiturate more likely to render the inmates unconscious; using an inhaled anesthetic at such a high dose that it is the sole drug necessary; pumping nitrogen through a gas mask to deprive an inmate of oxygen; and deploying a firing squad.

The 8th Circuit said Arkansas was previously unsuccessful in obtaining barbiturates and that the inhaled anesthesia and nitrogen alternatives have never been used in executions. A firing squad "is allegedly painless only if the volleys are targeted precisely," the 8th Circuit opinion says.

In a separate ruling, the 8th Circuit also sided against the inmates in their appeal of Baker's ruling in which she said that the compressed execution schedule — originally eight inmates over 11 days — does not cause needless suffering and impede their right to counsel.

Don Davis and Bruce Ward, originally scheduled for execution Monday night, received stays from the Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday afternoon that prevents their lethal injection. The attorney general's office has said it will appeal those decisions.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen's temporary restraining order issued Friday remained in place as of 5 p.m. Monday. The ruling, issued after a pharmaceutical distributor claimed Arkansas used deceit to obtain one of the execution drugs, has been appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Check back with Arkansas Online for updates on this developing story and read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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Comments on: Appeals court overturns federal judge's order blocking Arkansas executions

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Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 total comments

Blind_Eye says... April 17, 2017 at 6:08 p.m.

These murderers should have thought of the consequences well in advance to them committing their crimes. No mercy for murderers..... I have no problem with them going to the kill floor of a packing plant for their executions....

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HarleyOwner says... April 17, 2017 at 6:10 p.m.

No consideration is being given to how much suffering the victims must have went thru.

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RBear says... April 17, 2017 at 6:13 p.m.

This is starting to get crazy in these rushed rulings by some courts to execute. In reviewing the 8th Circuit's opinion, it seems rushed in its own right, not considering the fact that Oklahoma who have midazolam in their 3-drug protocol list both nitrogen hypoxia and firing squad as alternatives. So now the 8th Circuit is saying those methods are not reasonable without even hearing evidence on the methods. Talk about twisted logic. Of course, OK is in the Tenth Circuit so you can see the disparity of opinions that lie ahead.

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PopulistMom says... April 17, 2017 at 7:22 p.m.

RBear,

Some of these people have been on death row 20 years. This is not rushed. If the doctors can put me under for knee surgery, there must be drugs which can help put people to death. Imagine the agony of the victims' families some of whom suffer from PTSD from these monsters. Some of these murders were witnessed by the children. As a society, we must take a strong stance against brutality against women. (I believe only one case involved male victims.) Most of these cases involve men who kill women for pleasure or to keep them from serving as witnesses to rape. Justice for violence against women should be a feminist issue. The other case involved an escapee who murdered two males. He should be put down as well. Once escaped, he poses a risk to the safety of society.

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concernedcitizentwo says... April 17, 2017 at 7:41 p.m.

A federal judge made a bad ruling. Surprise surprise. Do they ever get it right?

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maxtor says... April 17, 2017 at 11:13 p.m.

how many of the convicted murderers had compassion about hurting their victims when they committed the crime?? none probably!!! so why should we be so concerned about their pain and suffering to carry out the conviction/execution?? answer: we shouldn't!! if the judge that blocked the executions did what i heard they done after he blocked the executions, he should be removed from the bench about yesterday.....they are not fit to be a judge. they cannot carry out their duties as prescribed!!! get them out of there and replace them with someone that can do their competent duty!!!

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RBear says... April 18, 2017 at 7:07 a.m.

PM, so tell me why they can't wait until they get a suitable substitute for the first drug which has been the cause of botched executions in two states and rejected by a third for a different substitute. When you're trying to avoid a deadline of expiration, it is rushed. Explain to me why midazolam is such a good drug in the protocol after all the evidence points to the contrary.
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You are completely missing my point about the rushed process. I am not denying they deserve their sentence. I am rejecting the fact that the state has its act together and was ready for these executions. If this has been going on for 20 years, why are there so many problems with the execution process? It sounds like if anyone is to blame, it's the state. Furthermore, the rulings are starting to sound like a chaotic mess of opinions that often contradict each other.
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Take the 8th Circuit's. Reading through it, you find some pretty bizarre logic coming to their conclusion to reverse the injunction. What it really shows is how ill-prepared our nation is to carry out capital punishment. BTW, tell me one case where a criminal was deterred from a crime because of the punishment. Taking a strong stance against brutality starts with the root causes, not the outcomes. All punishment does is make one family feel good (and I'm not denying their need for closure), but does nothing for the hundreds yet to come.
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Let me give you a little exercise to embark upon. I really wish Arkansas did what Texas did by publishing the last statements of those put to death. BTW, Texas leads the nation in executions at 542 as of last month. Read some of those last statements to gain more insight on the condemned. Look at the offender information such as grade last completed and the circumstances of the crime. It takes this to a much deeper level than a name you read in the paper the next day.
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I would also ask you to read the stories of those wrongfully convicted. Yes, the state makes mistakes and has committed state-sponsored murder several times. But rarely does anyone take up that issue and deal with those problems. Imagine being convicted of a crime you didn't commit and the state is rushing to put you to death to meet a deadline. I'm not saying that's the case here, but the circumstances are the same.

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