Political News

Arkansas judge: Order guided by law, not execution views

Posted April 19

— An Arkansas judge who participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration after issuing an order blocking the state's executions defended the move Wednesday, saying his ruling was guided by property law and not his views on capital punishment.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen wrote in a blog post that he was portraying Jesus when he lay on a cot for an hour and a half outside the governor's mansion after he issued the order last week barring Arkansas from using one of its execution drugs. The image of Griffen strapped to the cot invoked comparisons to a condemned inmate on a gurney awaiting lethal injection.

The state Supreme Court on Monday lifted Griffen's order and prohibited the judge from considering any death penalty-related cases. It also referred Griffen to the state's judicial disciplinary panel.

"So because I am a follower of Jesus and a citizen of the United States and Arkansas, I portrayed a dead person - the Jesus who was crucified by the Roman Empire on what we call Good Friday - by lying motionless on a cot in front of the Arkansas Governor's Mansion," Griffen wrote.

The judge did not respond to an email seeking additional comment and his voicemail was full.

The Arkansas Supreme Court halted a double execution the state planned Monday night. The state vows to move forward with another double execution Thursday. Arkansas hasn't executed anyone since 2005.

A medical supply company sought the order, saying it sold Arkansas vecuronium bromide to be used for medical purposes, not executions. The firm, McKesson Corp., has re-filed its lawsuit seeking the drug's return.

"Property law is property law, no matter whether one supports or is opposed to capital punishment," Griffen wrote.

Photos and video of Friday's demonstration showed Griffen wearing an anti-death penalty button and surrounded by people holding signs urging Gov. Asa Hutchinson to halt a plan that originally called for executing eight inmates by the end of the month.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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