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The Latest: Arkansas execution drug challenge survives

Posted July 12

— The Latest on an effort by a drug distributor to prevent Arkansas from using its products in executions (all times local):

4:20 p.m.

A medical supply company's challenge to Arkansas' three-drug execution protocol remains alive, though the state doesn't have enough drugs to put any inmate to death.

The state's lawyers went to court Wednesday to argue that Arkansas was immune to a lawsuit by McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. They said lawsuits against the state aren't valid unless Arkansas is committing egregious acts.

McKesson doesn't want Arkansas to use its vecuronium bromide in the execution chamber. The company won a preliminary injunction in April, but the Arkansas Supreme Court set the order aside and let the drug be used in four executions that month. Circuit Judge Alice Gray on Wednesday rejected the state's attempt to dismiss the lawsuit.

Arkansas also wants Gray to transfer the case to a court outside of Little Rock. Gray said she will decide that request later. The judge also turned down McKesson's attempt to delay work on the case until the state Supreme Court settles the sovereign immunity question.

Arkansas currently has only two of the three drugs it needs to put inmates to death.

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2:25 p.m.

A judge has opened a hearing on whether a drug distributor can prevent Arkansas from using one of its products in the execution chamber.

McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. says Arkansas failed to say it wanted to use its vecuronium bromide in executions. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray temporarily halted its use, but the state Supreme Court set aside the ruling. Arkansas subsequently executed four inmates in April, using McKesson's paralytic lethal-injection drug as the second step of a three-drug process.

The issue went before Gray again Wednesday. In papers filed ahead of the hearing, the state says McKesson has "seller's remorse" and cannot reverse the 2016 sale.

The state also wants to move the case to a different county. McKesson's lawyers say Arkansas is just seeking a more favorable venue.

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