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Firms object to drug use in Arkansas executions

The unprecedented schedule of executions was announced after Arkansas prison officials acquired a supply of potassium chloride, adding to the stock of midazolam they now have.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson says, overall, Arkansas supports the death penalty and it's time to provide closure for the victim's families after decades of legal work. He says he's confident everything will be handled professionally and seriously.

While Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will read over the motion, her office said she plans for the executions to continue. He said the fact the drug is expiring soon did play a factor in the executions timetable.

Lawyers for seven Arkansas inmates set to be executed by lethal injection next week argued in federal court that the state's hurried schedule and execution protocol amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, in a bid to halt what they call "mass executions".

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchingson's administrations scheduled the unrelenting pace of the multiple executions using the explanation that one of its lethal injection drugs, midazolam, will expire at the end of the month and it was not evident when the state could expect a replenishment of the hard to come by drug. 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 gurneys.

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"The only conclusion is that these medicines were acquired from an unauthorized seller in violation of important contractual terms that the manufacturers relied on", the attorneys wrote.

The lawyers also noted that the European Union had strict regulations for products that can be used for capital punishment, meaning that Arkansas' actions could convince officials to reduce the supply of medicines for fear of indirectly abetting executions. "Pharmaceuticals obtained in this manner are at risk of adulteration or chemical change due to improper handling such as failure to maintain proper temperature levels during storage and transport". Executives at the drug giant have said they oppose the use of their drugs in executions, but a spokesperson for the corporation did not immediately reply to a request for comment. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker is considering whether the expedited schedule unconstitutionally impacts the inmates' access to effective legal counsel and increases the risk of error by the Department of Correction. In a statement on its website, Pfizer said a distributor had sold the drug to Arkansas without the company's knowledge. These botched executions saw inmates gasping for breath, snorting, writhing, convulsing, and otherwise showing that they were conscious and in excruciating pain-one of these executions dragged on for nearly two hours.

Arkansas hasn't executed an inmate since 2005 because of legal challenges and drug shortages.

He said: "I don't think we would have acquired the drugs that we have without that confidentiality agreement".

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