Arkansas judge: Order guided by law, not execution views

FILE - In this file photo taken July 30, 1997, a television camera mounted on the ceiling of a witness room is pointed toward the Arkansas death chamber at Cummins Prison in Varner, Ark. Attorneys for nine death row inmates want a judge to deem Arkansas' new lethal injection law unconstitutional. The death row inmates' lawyers filed a motion for summary judgment on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. The inmates also want a judge to declare that the 2013 Method of Execution Act is invalid as applied to them. The new execution law came about after the state Supreme Court struck down the previous one in 2012, saying that legislators had ceded too much control over execution procedures to correction officials. Legislators enacted a new law this year that says the state must use a lethal dose of a barbiturate in lethal injections. Arkansas last executed an inmate in 2005. The state doesn't have any executions scheduled. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — 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, and justices on Wednesday blocked the lethal injection of another inmate scheduled to die Thursday night. 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. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray blocked Arkansas from using the drug Wednesday after the firm, McKesson Corp., 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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