Arkansas executions blocked again by healthcare company suit

9 Death Row Inmates Turn to U.S. Supreme Court Request Emergency Stays of Execution

The Correction Department purchased the drugs using the license of an Arkansas doctor, Tull said, and company records presented to the judge showed the sale had been conducted under the license of Dr. Robert Allen Floss, a family practitioner who is also regional medical director of Correct Care Solutions, the company contracted to provide health care services to the state's prison system. Anti-death penalty supporters Abraham Bonowitz, left, and Randy Gardner wait near their taped off "protest corral" outside the Varner Unit late Monday, April 17, 2017 near Varner, Ark.

Human rights campaigners and anti-death penalty activists have warned that the latest rulings do not mark an end to the "deadly spate of executions". A double execution planned for earlier this week was halted by the state Supreme Court.

McKesson's suit marks the first time in U.S. legal history that a private company has brought direct legal action to prevent the misuse of medicines in executions. The groups accused her of being close to trial attorneys and for the court's decision to strike down Arkansas' voter ID law.

Johnson, 47, was one of two inmates to be put to death Thursday in what the state hoped would be its first execution since 2005. The drug is one of three used in Arkansas' lethal injection protocol.

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. 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. The remaining six could still theoretically be put to death this month, though two of those inmates have received stays that the state hasn't yet appealed. Another ruling Wednesday could scuttle the entire schedule.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray on Wednesday granted a temporary restraining order to McKesson Corp. The company said it would suffer harm financially and to its reputation if the executions were carried out.

McKesson attorney John Tull told the judge that the prisons department had "duped" the Virginia-based company, which has been supplying pharmaceuticals and medical equipment to the agency for more than 20 years, into providing the drugs.

The lawsuit complains that state officials continued to act egregiously when McKesson discovered its mistake and tried to get the drug shipment back.

In a separate ruling, the Arkansas Supreme Court voted 4 to 3 to grant a stay of execution for Stacey Johnson, an inmate who had been scheduled for execution on Thursday. Johnson was convicted of murder in 1997, and had been scheduled to be executed 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 had been reviewed multiple times by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed the guilt of each", he said.

While both of Wednesday's rulings could be overturned, Arkansas now faces an uphill battle to execute any inmates before the end of April, when another of its drugs expires.

Immediately after Gray's decision, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced plans to appeal the ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court today. "I am evaluating options on how to proceed to ensure that justice is carried out", she said in a statement Wednesday night.

Griffin said he used phone calls and text messages a year ago to order one of Arkansas' three execution drugs.

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