Arkansas officials ask courts to clear path for executions

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Arkansas officials ask courts to clear path for executions

The two inmates were transferred to the Cummins Unit in Grady, which houses the state's death chamber, ahead of the lethal injections scheduled for 7 p.m. CDT (0000 GMT) and about 8:15 p.m. CDT (0115 GMT on Friday), prisons spokesman Solomon Graves said.

Two pharmaceutical companies that have said they don't want their drugs used in Arkansas' executions are asking to intervene in the court fight over whether the state can use a third lethal injection drug. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge plans to appeal the decision to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which previously overturned a similar ruling on Monday made by Judge Wendell Griffen.

The state Supreme Court has denied two stay requests from Ledell Lee, but his attorneys are fighting on other fronts in state and federal court to halt his execution.

Inmates Bruce Ward (top row L to R), Don Davis, Ledell Lee, Stacy Johnson, Jack Jones (bottom row L to R), Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams and Jason Mcgehee are shown in these booking photo provided March 21, 2017.

Moments later a state circuit judge in a separate courtroom granted a temporary restraining blocking the state from using a drug for lethal injections.

Arkansas' attempt to carry out its first execution in almost 12 years wasn't thwarted by the type of liberal activist judge Republicans regularly bemoan here, but instead by a state Supreme Court that's been the focus of expensive campaigns by conservative groups to reshape the judiciary.

Both men have consistently maintained their innocence.

"Through the manipulation of the judicial system, these men continue to torment the victims' families in seeking, by any means, to avoid their just punishment", the prosecutors said in a joint statement issued Thursday.

"When I set the dates, I knew there could be delays in one or more of the cases, but I expected the courts to allow the juries' sentences to be carried out since each case has been reviewed multiple times by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed the guilt of each".

The state had originally planned to execute eight death row inmates in four pairs in a span of 11 days, starting on April 17 and ending on April 27. The first two executions were cancelled because of court decisions. Once the written order was filed, the state asked for an emergency stay of that order.

Lawyers for the state of Arkansas have started their appeal of a decision that would prevent its executioners from using one of the three drugs in its lethal injection protocol. The Arkansas attorney general's office says it won't appeal an order halting the execution of Stacey Johnson.

Legal experts said it was unlikely that the state could proceed with his execution.

The other two justices who favored stopping the executions were Robin Wynne, who was touted as tough on child predators when he was elected in 2014, and Josephine Linker Hart, who ran as a "no-nonsense judge" in 2012. Outside groups and the candidates spent more than $1.6 million a year ago on a pair of high court races that were among the most fiercely fought judicial campaigns in the state's history.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said he was disappointed by the latest setback to the execution schedule. As such, she granted the TRO - at the hearing on Wednesday and in a written order issued a little before noon Thursday. A spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Corrections declined to comment on McKesson's claims, but the state argued in court filings that the company "willingly sold a drug. and then experienced seller's remorse".

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