Arkansas bars judge from death penalty cases after he protests executions at rally

Arkansas bars judge from death penalty cases after he protests executions at rally
The Arkansas Supreme Court is barring a judge from future death penalty cases for participating in an anti-death penalty protest where he appeared to mimic an inmate strapped to a gurney.

Justices from the state's top court on Monday reassigned the cases from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen.

The court also referred Griffen to the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission to consider whether he violated the code of conduct for judges.

The move comes as Griffen prohibited the state from using a lethal injection drug a supplier said was misleadingly obtained.

Giffen participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration before and after issuing the ruling Friday.

According to AP, the judge said he's morally opposed to the death penalty, but that his beliefs shouldn't prevent him from taking up certain cases.

Gifften’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by pharmaceutical manufacturer, McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc., which provided the Arkansas Department of Correction with one of the drugs.

The company argued that it was “misled” by state officials about how they planned to use the vecuronium bromide, and that they failed to return the supply after saying they would do so. It is the state’s only supply and state officials have been able to locate another source.

The order issued by Griffen placed a hold on Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson’s executive timetable, under which eight men were slated to be put to death in 11 days before the April 30 expiration of a key drug used in the state’s lethal injection protocol.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge in an emergency petition filed Saturday challenged his order arguing Judge Griffen “cannot be considered remotely impartial on issues related to death penalty.”

Rutledge said Griffen attended the 2pm rally Friday at the state capitol in Little Rock before issuing the temporary restraining order at about 4:25pm, then resurfaced at an evening protest outside the governor’s mansion.

“Within an hour of grating the [order], Judge Griffen was photographed at a second anti-death penalty rally – this one at the Governor’s mansion, where Judge Griffen lay strapped down to a cot to simulate the experience of a condemned prisoner on a gurney,” said the petition. “Judge Griffen was protesting the very execution he had just enjoined.”

US District Court Judge Kristine Baker also issued a preliminary injunction Saturday in a separate legal challenge filed by inmates against the state’s rapid timetable – as well as the drug protocol.

“The schedule imposed on these officials, as well as their lack of recent execution experience, causes concern,” Judge Baker said in her order.

Two of the condemned men have obtained temporary reprieves, leaving six executions scheduled between April 17-27.