On Saturday, a federal judge halted the executions of seven men, which were scheduled to begin Monday night in Arkansas—perhaps permanently foiling the state’s plans to carry out eight executions before its supply of lethal injection drugs expire at the end of April.
Judge Baker wrote, “there is a significant possibility that plaintiffs will succeed on the merits of their Eighth Amendment challenge to Arkansas’s lethal injection protocol.”
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker ordered the preliminary injunction, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which came less than 24 hours after the state’s supreme court stayed one execution, and a county court had delayed the seven other executions.
In addition, the medical supplier, McKesson, objected to the manner in which the state obtained its vecuronium bromide, one of the three drugs in the lethal cocktail.
“The Arkansas Department of Correction intentionally sought to circumvent McKesson’s policies to procure Pfizer’s vecuronium bromide under the auspices that it would be used for medical purposes in ADC’s health facility,” McKesson said in a statement, even after the company tried multiple times to get the state to offer assurances the drug would not be used in lethal injections.
For years, corrections facilities have been facing shortages of lethal injection drugs, as many have been pulled by manufacturers who do not want their products associated with human execution.
In February, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a death row inmate’s appeal challenging the constitutionality of the state of Alabama’s lethal injection protocol, which included the use of the drug midazolam. In a scathing dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, argued that the court should have considered whether Alabama’s use of the controversial drug constituted cruel and unusual punishment.