Tension is rising in Arkansas as it prepares to put seven prisoners to death over an 11 day period starting from Monday.
As the prisoners battle in court to halt the rush to the death chamber, two pharmaceuticals companies have asked a judge to block the US state from using their drugs for the executions.
Fresenius Kabi USA and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals asked a federal court in Arkansas to
take into consideration that the use of their drugs during a lethal injection “violates contractual supply-chain controls” they have it place, according to an online court document.
The firms sell their drugs only to wholesalers and distributors that agree to resell only to acute-care hospitals, clinics and healthcare facilities. They also instruct resellers not to sell or deliver their drugs to correctional facilities, according to the brief.
The companies claim that use of their drugs as part of a lethal injection cocktail would create a public health risk by decreasing the supply of the medications and that the improper buying and selling of the drugs makes them unsafe.
Despite these and other moves to stop what critics call ‘assembly-line executions’, Republican
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson defends the unprecedented pace, including three pairs of dual executions.
“It has been a 25 year nightmare for the victims that have had to deal with this and now it is time for that justice to be carried out,” he said.
No state has ever executed as many inmates in as short a period since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Critics say the rushed schedule is reckless, increasing the chance of errors.
Human Rights Watch is among the groups opposing the executions.
Outside the Arkansas statehouse in Little Rock on Friday, death penalty opponents including film star Johnny Depp rallied against the planned executions. He was accompanied by former death-row inmate Damien Echols.
Arkansas hasn’t put anyone to death for over a decade. The European Union has urged it to commute the death sentences.
But Governor Hutchinson says the state must act quickly, because one of the chemicals in the difficult-to-obtain lethal injection, the sedative midazolam, expires at the end of April.