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Hours before judge blocks Arkansas executions, HE was strapped to a cot at anti-death penalty protests

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An Arkansas judge who blocked the state’s multiple executions attended anti-death penalty protests on the same day.

On Saturday Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen was strapped to a cot, like an inmate who is set to be executed by lethal injection, about two and a half hours before he issued a temporary restraining order blocking the executions, the Washington Times reported.

Judge Griffen “cannot be considered remotely impartial on issues related to the death penalty,” the state’s Attorney General Leslie Rutledge in a petition to challenge the order filed on Saturday.

And, she said, the judge went to another protest after he issued the TRO.

“Within an hour of granting the TRO [temporary restraining 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,” Rutledge wrote. “Judge Griffen was protesting the very executions he had just enjoined.”

The petition also alleged that the judge wrote in a blog post earlier this month that “Arkansas officials plan to commit a series of homicides.”

The restraining order blocked the initiative of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to execute 11 men in eight days, before April 30 when one of the drugs used in the state’s executions, according to the Post.

Two of those men have obtained reprieves, leaving six to still be executed.

The restraining order was issued in response to a case brought by the manufacturer of one of the drugs, vecuronium bromide, that Arkansas uses in its executions.

“None of the claims asserted by McKesson, nor any statute or common-law theory, support McKesson’s apparent belief that a person who purchases a product must use that product in a certain way as dictated by the seller after the transaction or return the product on demand by the seller,” Rutledge said.

But because the state has no other way to execute, Rutledge said the TRO is tantamount to a stay of execution.

“[I]f the ADC cannot use the vecuronium bromide for the scheduled executions, then the executions cannot go forward,” she wrote. “Judge Griffen’s ex parte TRO is an undisguised stay of the upcoming executions.”

Judd Deere, Rutledge’s spokesman, condemned the judge’s decision.

“As a public opponent of capital punishment, Judge Griffen should have recused himself from this case,” he said. “Attorney General Rutledge intends to file an emergency request with the Arkansas Supreme Court to vacate the order as soon as possible.”

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Carmine Sabia

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