Amid the legal battle over Arkansas’ plan to execute as many as eight prisoners in 11 days, one of the judges that ruled against the state has angered death penalty supporters with a dramatic protest of capital punishment.
On Friday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order blocking Arkansas from using its supply of vecuronium bromide, one of three drugs in its lethal injection cocktail. Griffen granted the order after McKesson Medical-Surgical, which does not want its product used in executions, petitioned to stop the state on the grounds that the drug had been misleadingly obtained.
Within an hour of issuing that order, Griffen joined anti-death penalty protesters gathered outside Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s mansion in Little Rock. Griffen was dressed as an inmate and bound to a cot with ropes to look like a condemned prisoner on a gurney.
Arkansas Republicans including U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton and state Sen. Trent Garner quickly criticized Griffen’s protest. On Saturday, Garner called for the judge to resign or face impeachment.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) raised the issue of Griffen’s protest in a motion to have his temporary restraining order thrown out and him removed from the case. The state argued that Griffen couldn’t be considered even “remotely impartial” when it comes to the death penalty.
“As a public opponent of capital punishment, Judge Griffen should have recused himself from this case,” a spokesman for Rutledge said in a statement. “Attorney General Rutledge intends to file an emergency request with the Arkansas Supreme Court to vacate the order as soon as possible.”
The state also took issue with a recent post on Griffen’s personal blog, which interweaves justice and religion. The judge wrote:
Premeditated and deliberate killing of defenseless persons ― including defenseless persons who have been convicted of murder ― is not morally justifiable. Using medications designed for treating illness and preserving life to engage in such premeditated and deliberate killing is not morally justifiable.
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Griffen, a former Baptist minister and a lawyer, has faced criticism for his off-the-bench commentary before.
He criticized the University of Arkansas’ lack of racial diversity in 2002 and attacked President George W. Bush for the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War in 2005. The latter may have been part of the reason he lost his re-election bid for the Arkansas Court of Appeals a few years later. In 2011, he won a seat on the state’s 6th Circuit court.
“We have never, in my knowledge, been so afraid to admit that people can have personal beliefs yet can follow the law, even when to follow the law means they must place their personal feelings aside,” Griffen told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Griffen’s ruling on Friday had put another wrench in the state’s plan to start the series of eight executions on Monday and complete them before its supply of one hard-to-obtain lethal injection drug expired. Two of the eight prisoners had already been granted stays of execution when a federal judge on Saturday halted those of the remaining inmates on grounds that the state’s hasty schedule denied them due process.
McKesson Medical-Surgical moved to lift Griffen’s temporary restraining order following the federal court ruling, arguing that the order had become unnecessary.
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Source: HuffPost Black Voices