LITTLE ROCK — Two pharmaceutical companies Thursday filed court papers asking a federal judge not to allow Arkansas to use their drugs to execute seven inmates this month.
Also Thursday, the Arkansas Supreme Court denied a death-row inmate’s motion for a stay of his execution and said it would give expedited consideration to two other condemned inmates’ petitions seeking execution stays.
Fresenius Kabi USA and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a federal lawsuit by the condemned inmates, who are alleging that the states’ plan for executing them will inflict cruel and unusual punishment on them and that the accelerated execution schedule is violating their rights to due process and adequate access to counsel.
The companies said in the brief it appears Arkansas has obtained their products from an unknown third party for use in the upcoming executions, even though the companies sell their products only to wholesalers and distributors who agree to resell them only to health-care facilities for medical use.
Arkansas’ lethal-injection law exempts information about the suppliers of execution drugs from the state Freedom of Information Act.
The companies said the use of their products in executions runs counter to their mission to save and enhance patients’ lives and could create a public-health risk.
“Diverting the medicines to the Department (of Correction) and away from health-care providers could also create unnecessary shortages for patients who need them most,” they said in their brief. “When the medicines could be used to protect life, they are instead being used to end it. The unintended consequence could be to undermine the supply and to place patients in Arkansas and across the country at risk.”
Use of the drugs in executions also could undermine the supply because the European Union has prohibited trade in products that could be used for capital punishment or torture, the companies said.
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker said in court Thursday she had allowed the brief to be filed but had not yet decided whether she would consider it.
Baker was still hearing testimony Thursday night in a hearing that began Monday in the inmates’ lawsuit. Arkansas Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley took the stand Thursday and testified about details of the agency’s execution plans.
Kelley said that during each execution, two people who are licensed health-care professionals will place an intravenous line in the inmate. A third person will be present as a backup to help with the IV if needed, she said. Those people have no experience with previous executions, she said.
Kelley said one person, who is not a Department of Correction employee, will serve as the executioner in all seven procedures. That person does have experience in executions, she said.
Earlier Thursday, the state Supreme Court denied a motion by Jason McGehee for a stay of his execution. His execution already has been stayed by a federal judge who said last week that 30 days must be allowed for public comment on a recommendation by the state Parole Board that Gov. Asa Hutchinson commute McGehee’s death sentence to life without parole.
The state’s highest court also said it would give expedited consideration to petitions by Don William Davis and Bruce Earl Ward seeking stays of their executions, which are scheduled for Monday.
Davis and Ward say their executions should be on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considers a case concerning defendants’ access to independent mental health experts, which they say they were denied.