On Friday, Arkansas Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued a restraining order that forbids a lethal execution drug from being used on six men who were set to die within days. The restraining order will start Monday.
Vercuronium bromide is a lethal drug used in executions, and is part of a 3-drug protocol. First, midazolam is administered, which simply sedates the inmate. Then the bromide is given to stop their breathing, and lastly, potassium chloride is injected to stop the heart. This execution process is very controversial.
McKesson, a medical supply company based in San Francisco, has said the prison system bought vecuronium bromide believing it would be used for medical purposes. The company has said it had been reassured the drug would be returned and even issued a refund, but the drug was never returned.
The development came as the Arkansas Supreme Court issued an emergency stay to stop the execution of a seventh man who was to die Monday under the accelerated schedule.
Bruce Ward was scheduled to die for his conviction in the 1989 strangling of a woman at a convenience store where she worked. Ward’s lawyer, public defender Scott Braden, has argued that Ward’s severe schizophrenia would have made his execution unconstitutional.
“We are extremely grateful to the Arkansas Supreme Court for recognizing the serious issues presented in Mr. Ward’s case,” Braden told USA TODAY Friday night. “He is mentally ill and not competent to be executed under the Eighth Amendment,” Braden said regarding the measure that forbids the federal government to impose cruel and unusual punishment.
Ward’s mental illness has rendered him unable to understand the gravity of his case or his execution, Braden has said.
The court did not offer a reason for its one-page decision, issued Friday afternoon. No one could be reached at the court’s offices in Little Rock Friday evening.
I find it interesting that a lethal drug, used for executions of violent criminal, is under so much condemnation. The criminals are literally being killed for brutally murdering other human beings. I don’t see the problem.