Judge blocks Arkansas plan to execute at least six inmates over 11 days.

Judge Blocks Arkansas Plan to Execute At Least Six Inmates Over 11 Days

Judge Blocks Arkansas Plan to Execute At Least Six Inmates Over 11 Days

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April 15 2017 3:17 PM

Judge Blocks Arkansas Plan to Execute At Least Six Inmates Over 11 Days

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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 photos provided on March 21, 2017.

Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS

A federal judge on Saturday temporarily blocked plans by Arkansas to carry out a quick series of executions before the end of the April starting on Monday. The state immediately appealed the order by District Judge Kristine Baker. Arkansas hasn’t executed anyone in 12 years but now is in a rush because one of the drugs in the three-drug execution cocktail is set to expire at the end of the month. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he wants the drugs to be used before they spoil even if it meant putting more inmates to death in a shorter period of time than any other state since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

At first eight men were set to be executed, but in the end due to a series of court orders, six were scheduled to be killed over the 11-day period. Attorneys for the inmates say that carrying out the executions so quickly only increases the potential for harmful mistakes and also doesn’t give inmates enough time to prepare a proper defense. In her order, Baker wrote there was a “significant possibility” the inmates would succeed in their legal challenge of the execution protocol. "The schedule imposed on these officials, as well as their lack of recent execution experience, causes concern," she wrote.

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The decision comes a day after another judge, Wendell Griffen, blocked the use of the second drug in the three-drug lethal injection protocol— vercuronium bromide, which is used to paralyze and stop the person from breathing. That lawsuit had been filed by a medical supply company that said the Arkansas Department of Corrections misrepresented what the drug would be used for. Yet that decision was put into question when Griffen participated in a protest against the death penalty, leading the Arkansas government to call for his order to be nullified.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.