McGehee v. Hutchinson, No. 17-1804 (8th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
The district court entered stays of execution in an action brought by nine Arkansas prisoners under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The prisoners were all convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The court granted the State's motion to vacate the stays, concluding that the prisoners could have brought their section 1983 method-of-execution claim much earlier and intentionally declined to do so; the district court's conclusion concerning the use of midazolam in the Arkansas execution protocol did not apply the governing standard; the district court's factual findings would not support a conclusion that the prisoners have a likelihood of success in showing that the execution protocol is sure or very likely to cause severe pain; the court disagreed with the legal standard that the district court applied in determining whether alternative methods of execution are known and available; and, even assuming a risk of pain from the current method, the availability of the several methods cited by the district court is too uncertain to satisfy the rigorous standard under the Eighth Amendment. Accordingly, the court vacated the stays of execution.