Court blocks Arkansas from using lethal injection drug

The lethal injection table at the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Story highlights

  • The drug company says it wasn't supposed to be used for executions
  • The state wanted to execute eight men over 10 days this month
  • Two of the executions are already blocked for unrelated reasons

(CNN)Plans by Arkansas to execute a group of inmates before the end of the month ran into more problems Friday.

Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order that stops the state from using a certain drug for lethal injections. The supplier of the drug argued it wasn't supposed to be used for capital punishment.
It's unclear what effect the ruling will have on the state's plans to execute the men.
    Arkansas originally wanted to execute eight men between April 17 and April 27, before its supply of a lethal injection drugs expires at the end of April -- a plan that triggered outrage among capital punishment opponents.
    Bruce Ward
    Judges have already blocked two executions, though not because of the lethal injection issue. One of the executions was scheduled to happen Monday.
    The Arkansas Attorney General's Office issued this statement late Friday: "As a public opponent of capital punishment, Judge Griffen should have recused himself from this case. Attorney General (Leslie) Rutledge intends to file an emergency request with the Arkansas Supreme Court to vacate the order as soon as possible."
    Griffen has scheduled a hearing on the issue for 9 a.m. Tuesday.

    Drug companies go to court

    McKesson Medical Surgical Inc. argued its vecuronium bromide was intended only for medical purposes, not executions, and that the Arkansas Department of Corrections "misled" McKesson when it purchased the drug, according to a court brief.
    "ADC (the Arkansas Department of Correction) personnel used an existing medical license, which is to be used only to order products with legitimate medical uses, and an irregular ordering process to obtain the vecuronium via phone order with a McKesson salesperson," the brief said.
    The company is asking the Department of Corrections to return 10 vials of the drug.
    Two other drug companies, Fresenius Kabi USA and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, filed a brief in US District Court of Eastern Arkansas arguing contracts prohibit their products from being used in executions, which run "counter to the manufacturers' mission to save and enhance patients' lives."
    "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," thee two companies said in the brief.
    The judge has not ruled in this case.

    "Lifelong schizophrenia"