(UPI) — Two Arkansas courts on Wednesday blocked the state’s plans to resume a flurry of executions starting Thursday night.
In a setback to Arkansas’ unprecedented bid to carry out eight executions this month, the Arkansas Supreme Court granted a stay to one inmate and a circuit court barred the use of a lethal injection drug in any execution.
The rulings came two days after the state’s high court stayed two executions set for Monday. The U.S. Supreme Court declined Arkansas’ request to lift one of the stays.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson defended the accelerated schedule because the state’s supply of one of the lethal drugs used in the process expires at the end of April.
“When I set the dates, I knew there could be delays in one or more of the cases,” Hutchinson said in a statement Wednesday night, “but I expected the courts to allow the juries’ sentences to be carried out since each case had been reviewed multiple times by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed the guilt of each.”
Arkansas intended to execute Stacey E. Johnson and Ledell Lee at a prison southeast of Little Rock on Thursday night. Now it’s unclear whether any executions will proceed.
Johnson was granted the reprieve by the Arkansas Supreme Court. Lee avoided execution after Circuit Court Judge Alice Gray issued a restraining order that barred the state from using vecuronium bromide purchased last summer from McKesson Corporation, the nation’s largest drug distributor.
The New York Times reported McKesson sought a temporary restraining order preventing Arkansas from using the drug because it was obtained under false pretenses,