LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CN) – Two pharmaceutical manufacturers dealt a blow to Arkansas’ plan to execute seven inmates by lethal injection beginning next week, just as a federal judge is set to decide whether the state can proceed with its most aggressive execution schedule to date.
Fresenius Kabi USA and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals Corp. filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Thursday, saying their drugs weren’t intended to be used in lethal injections. The companies were granted permission to file their brief in the inmates’ lawsuit seeking to halt their death sentences, which start on Monday with the planned executions of condemned killers Bruce Ward and Don Davis.
“The use of the medicines in lethal injections runs counter to the manufacturers’ mission to save and enhance patients’ lives, and carriers with it not only a public-health risk, but also reputational, fiscal, and lethal risks,” according to the companies’ April 13 brief.
The brief further states, “The manufacturers’ records indicate no direct or indirect sales of the medicines to the Arkansas Department of Correction. The only conclusion is that these medicines were acquired from an unauthorized seller in violation of important contractual terms that the manufacturers relied on when selling the medicines.”
Lawyers for the seven inmates set to be put to death in a 10-day span argued in federal court this week that the state’s hurried schedule and execution protocol amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
The inmates claimed in their lawsuit filed late last month, one of several legal challenges to their death sentences, that the state’s lethal injection protocol “carriers objectively intolerable risks” and that the sedative midazolam has been used in multiple botched executions.
The hearing in U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker’s Little Rock courtroom is expected to conclude Friday. A ruling is likely to come before the first set of executions begin on Monday.
Arkansas has not executed a prisoner since November 2005 and has not carried out a dual execution since 1999. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson scheduled the executions to take place before the state’s supply of the drug expires at the end of the month.
Arkansas officials said publicly this week that they intended to move forward as planned with the executions, barring any court intervention.
Attorneys for the state argued in court documents that Arkansas does not currently have a source to purchase more of the drug from. They say a temporary stay “would effectively commute these prisoners’ death sentences.”
The seven inmates scheduled for execution beginning on Monday if the state’s plan holds up are Bruce Ward, Don Davis, Stacey Johnson, Ledell Lee, Jack Jones, Marcel Williams and Kenneth Williams.