2 inmates seek execution stays from Arkansas high court

A few dozen people regularly have kept vigil outside Gov. Asa Hutchinson's mansion, and the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty hopes to draw hundreds to a Good Friday rally at the state Capitol.

"There is no question of guilt", Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson told reporters. He says he's confident everything will be handled professionally and seriously.

Nobody now working at the Arkansas Department of Corrections has performed an execution using midazolam, the prisoners' attorneys claim. He said the fact the drug is expiring soon did play a factor in the executions timetable.

Bruce Earl Ward, seen in an undated mugshot, has been scheduled for execution April 17, 2017.

The executions - the first in Arkansas in 12 years - are being rushed through before the expiration date in May for the state's supply of midazolam, a controversial sedative that is one of three drugs used in lethal injections. The New Yorker reports the state's stock of the sedative midazolam expires at the end of April, which is why Hutchinson approved what The Guardian called a "conveyor belt" of executions. The inmates set for execution have challenged the state's use of the drug midazolam, as well as the speed at which the executions are scheduled to be carried out.

Both companies said they've put strict controls on their supplies to ensure the drugs aren't used in capital punishment.

London-based Hikma, West-Ward's parent company, said it made "repeated" representation to officials "to confirm if they are in possession of our product which they intend to use in lethal injections, and if so to return it to us". "Pharmaceuticals obtained in this manner are at risk of adulteration or chemical change due to improper handling such as failure to maintain proper temperature levels during storage and transport".

"The only conclusion is that these medicines were acquired from an unauthorized seller in violation of important contractual terms that the manufacturers relied on", the attorneys wrote.

The AP past year used redacted drug labels to identify Hospira, which was purchased by Pfizer, as the likely manufacturer of the third drug in Arkansas' lethal injection protocol, vecuronium bromide.

While Arkansas lawyers have said that the drug has been successfully used in other states and that its injection protocols fall within constitutional guidelines, medical experts have said that the drug is not even suitable as a surgical anesthetic, reports Reuters.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Jodi Raines Dennis rejected the request Thursday to halt the execution of Bruce Ward, saying she doesn't have the authority to issue a stay.

Their lawsuit is among a flurry of legal challenges aimed at halting the upcoming executions.

Arkansas is set to put a mentally ill man to death next week, unless his lawyers' last-minute attempts to save him from being one of seven upcoming executions in an 11-day period work.

"From my standpoint, I have two convictions", he said "One, that I think death penalty is an appropriate punishment in the most serious and heinous crimes in our society".

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