In the last decade, states have struggled to obtain the drugs necessary to execute prisoners on death row. Lethal injections require a cocktail of three drugs: anesthesia, a drug that induces paralysis, and a drug that stops the heart. Following an international campaign to bar the United States from importing the deadly combination of pharmaceuticals, many states have been unable to execute prisoners. However, some states have attempted to recreate the cocktail by other means which are untested, possibly inhumane, and possibly illegally obtained.
Arkansas plans to execute seven people in 11 days beginning on April 17. The "assembly line" execution spree has been decried by activists, and now two pharmaceutical companies are joining the fight to stop Arkansas's effort. Fresenius Kabi USA and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals filed a lawsuit on April 14 positing that the state had obtained the drugs improperly through a third party, as they only sell to medical providers.
The drug companies join, surprisingly, a host of correctional officers who wrote an open letter to Arkansas's governor in March urging him to reconsider the back-to-back executions. They argued that the slew would "impose extraordinary and unnecessary stress and trauma on the staff responsible with carrying out the executions."
Pointing to the widely publicized botched Oklahoma execution in 2014, the former prison officials also claimed that the amount of executions could cause errors, which could potentially harm the prisoner. "A state's interest in justice and finality are not served by a botched execution," the letter read.
Governor Asa Hutchinson maintained that the executions would proceed as planned. Arkansas's rush to execute so many inmates is because one of the drugs nearing expiration - if the state does not use its supply of Midazolam by the end of the month, executions in the state would come to a halt. If the executions are carried out, it will be the first time since 2005 Arkansas has executed a prisoner.
According to Robert Durham, president of the anti-capital punishment organization Death Penalty Information Center, the successive executions are unprecedented. "In the modern history of the death penalty, no state has ever attempted to carry out this many executions in this short a timeframe," Durham told Time.