This Arkansas Judge Spoke Out Against Lethal Injections, Now He’s Been Banned from Hearing Death-Penalty Cases

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Judge Wendell Griffen publicly protested a series of scheduled executions on Friday, April 14. Image courtesy of THV 11 News/Twitter.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has banned a prominent judge from handling any case related to the death penalty Monday, April 17, after that judge protested a string of executions slated to take place.

In a public display of protest, Judge Wendell Griffen strapped himself to a gurney to voice his opposition to the state’s death penalty. Griffen’s public demonstration came the same day he issued a temporary restraining order against Arkansas from using a lethal chemical, halting a slew of scheduled executions.

The Arkansas Department of Correction “misled [drug provider] McKesson when it procured the Vecuronium,” Griffen wrote in a ruling Friday, April 14. “ADC personnel used an existing medical license, which is to be used only to order products with legitimate medical uses, and irregular ordering process to obtain the Vecuronium via phone order with a McKesson salesperson.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) had initially scheduled a series of eight executions for Monday, several of which were blocked by various court orders, according to Fusion. Hutchinson reportedly tried to hurry the string of executions before the state’s supply of the lethal chemicals used in death-penalty cases went bad.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the inmates,” J.R. Davis, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said at a news conference. “I would encourage you to remember the victims throughout this process and their families who have had to go through this nightmare for 20, 25 or 30 years. And the justice tonight they were hoping to get, they will once again not.”

The State of Arkansas fought back against Griffen’s restraining order by filing an emergency petition against the judge pointing to anti-death penalty sentiments posted on his personal blog.

“[The state plans] to use medication designed for treating and healing disease to kill men,” the blog post read.

Though Griffen hasn’t been quiet about his personal objection to capital punishment, he contended that he could remain neutral while presiding over death-penalty cases. The court thought otherwise, however.

The judge has since been referred to the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission to consider whether he violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, according to local station TVH 11. The committee confirmed it has launched an investigation into the matter.

The scheduled executions will remain on hold until further notice.

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