Drug Maker Moves to Drop its own Lawsuit Blocking Executions


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The pharmaceutical company that filed a lawsuit and succeeded in halting Arkansas’ planned executions is now seeking to dismiss that same suit. 

McKesson Medical-Surgical, Inc. sought a temporary restraining order against the state to prevent the Arkansas Department of Correction from using its drug in several executions planned to start next week. 

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen granted a temporary restraining order after the drug company said its product, vercurium bromide, was acquired by the Arkansas Department of Correction with the understanding it would be used for medical purposes, not executions. 

When McKesson Medical-Surgical, Inc. learned the drug would be used in scheduled executions, the company issued a full refund to the department and said it was assured the vercurium bromide would be returned. It never was given back.

Vercurium bromide is one of three drugs used in the state’s lethal injection protocol.

On Friday, the pharmaceutical company filed a lawsuit and asked for a temporary restraining order preventing its drug from being used in executions. That same evening, Griffen agreed and issued the temporary restraining order. 

On Saturday, a second judge issued a ruling to halt the executions. That ruling was issued by U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker. She cited Eighth Amendment concerns raised by the inmates and the Arkansas Department of Correction viewing policy for the inmates’ attorneys as reasons for her decision.

The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution bars cruel and unusual punishment. The death row inmates have alleged that Arkansas’ lethal injection protocol does not ensure that those Eighth Amendment rights would not be violated. 

Following Baker’s ruling, McKesson Medical-Surgical, Inc. filed a motion to vacate Griffen’s temporary restraining order. The drug company said Baker’s ruling addresses their concerns about the vercurium bromide being used in executions, and the temporary restraining order issued on Friday is no longer needed at this time.

“McKesson voluntarily dismisses its lawsuit without prejudice,” the company’s motion filed on Saturday afternoon states. 

Following this motion, workers were called into the Arkansas Supreme Court. An employee inside the building said it likely had to do with Arkansas executions and Griffen’s temporary restraining order. 

A spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said even if the Arkansas Supreme Court vacates Griffen’s temporary restraining order, Arkansas would still be barred from executing inmates because of Baker’s Saturday ruling. 

The spokesman also said Rutledge will appeal Baker’s preliminary injunction as well. 

On Saturday evening, Rutledge also filed a motion for the Arkansas Supreme Court to reconsider granting Bruce Ward a stay of execution.

The court issued its stay on Friday evening but did not give a reason for doing so.

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