| LITTLE ROCK, Ark., April 12
LITTLE ROCK, Ark., April 12 A surgeon told a
federal court in Arkansas on Wednesday a sedative the state
plans to use in its lethal injection mix is not suitable for
surgery and should be prohibited when Arkansas holds an
unprecedented series of executions later this month.
Arkansas plans to kill eight prisoners in dual executions
over 11 days from April 17, although a federal judge has halted
one execution. Death penalty opponents say the rushed schedule
is reckless and increases the chance of errors.
The European Union on Wednesday called on Arkansas to
commute the death sentences.
The convicted murderers scheduled to die have asked U.S.
District Judge Kristine Baker in Little Rock to halt their
executions, saying the state's rush to the death chamber was
unconstitutional. Baker set a Thursday deadline for evidence.
Lawyers for Arkansas, which has not had an execution for 12
years, have told the court the drug in question, midazolam, has
been used in executions in other states and its lethal injection
protocols pass constitutional muster.
Jonathan Groner, a professor at Ohio State University's
medical school and a specialist in pediatrics and trauma,
testified he has never used midazolam as the primary anesthetic
in thousands of operations he has performed.
"It would be malpractice for me to do an appendectomy using
midazolam as an anesthetic," he said. He was a witness for the
inmates and on cross examination said he was a death penalty
When the number of executions was rising in the late 1990s,
several states held double and even triple executions on the
same day, including Arkansas.
At that time, a powerful sedative was part of the mix but
since then, major pharmaceutical companies have banned sales to
states for executions. This caused a scramble for new mixes,
including combinations with midazolam, which has been used in
flawed executions in states including Oklahoma and Arizona where
witnesses said inmates withered in pain on death chamber
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, set the
schedule, saying the state's midazolam supply expires at the end
of April and it is in the interest of justice for victims'
families to hold as many executions as possible while Arkansas
has the difficult-to-obtain drug.
The American Bar Association, the leading U.S. law
professionals organization, sent a letter to Hutchinson on
Tuesday, saying the expedited schedule appears not to allow for
due process of the law.
(Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, and
Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels; Editing by Matthew Lewis)