HALTS EXECUTIONS: Judge Wendell Griffen.
Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen today stayed the scheduled executions of eight men on Arkansas's Death Row pending a hearing on their request for an injunction to stop the executions on account of, among others, the state's refusal to provide information about the drugs to be used for lethal injections.
The order also covers an inmate whose execution date has not been set.
More to come.
Here's the order.
The lawsuit challenges the execution process as unconstitutional and says the secrecy is a First Amendment violation. They want the state enjoined from executions until questions about the process and 2015 statute on executions are resolved.
The judge said the inmates would be irreparably harmed if executions were carried out before they could develop and make their case challenging the process.
Here, the judge explains the reasons he refused the state's motion to dismiss the case.
The state claims immunity from lawsuit. But the judge said there are circumstances in which sovereign immunity doesn't apply, including when a broken contract is involved. In this case, the inmates say the state — in making secret information about drug suppliers and makers — is violating the express settlement agreement of an earlier legal action over the lethal injection process.
Griffen also rejected the state's argument that plaintiffs hadn't demonstrated a sufficient factual basis for their claim that the process could constitute cruel and unusual punishment unless more information was available about the execution protocol. He said due process required that the inmates get a meaningful adjudication of the claim.
The judge did dismiss the plaintiffs' argument that too much authority had been delegated to the Correction Department on drug choice, including use of a paralytic drug that does not render someone insensate while other drugs are administered to cause death. He said the Supreme Court, in reversing one of his earlier death case orders, had given the legislature authority to set out procedures allowing Correction Department leeway in the process.
The judge said the claim that use of the paralytic drug — or electrocution — could constitute cruel and unusual punishment was sufficient to demand a full hearing, though he said it remained to be seen if it would prevail.
I've sought reactions from the governor and attorney general.
UPDATE: From Gov. Asa Hutchinson'
“I’ve received Judge Griffen’s order. I understand the Attorney General is weighing options as to how to proceed from here. I am disappointed that the victims’ families have to wait once again while this process is prolonged.”
From Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office
“It is unfortunate that once again justice is being delayed for the victims of the crimes committed by the death-row prisoners who filed this lawsuit. These delays have gone on for far too long. I respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision not to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the prisoners and to delay their executions. I will continue to fight for the victims of these murders and their grieving families.”
From Twitter post by the whacked-out Sen. Bart Hester:
100% certain "judge" wendall [sic] griffin [sic] would side w/ child rapist & cop killers. Locked in with Democrat platform.