Court Won’t Recuse From Judge’s Bid To Hear Execution Cases

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court said Thursday it won’t disqualify itself from considering whether to allow a judge who participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration to resume handling execution cases again.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen took part in the April 2017 demonstration the same day he blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug.

Justices denied Griffen’s request that they recuse themselves from the case over his effort to resume hearing execution-related cases. The court disqualified him from those cases after he was photographed lying on a cot outside the governor’s mansion during the demonstration.

A disciplinary panel in June dismissed an ethics case against Griffen over the demonstration, and Griffen asked the court to allow him to preside over execution cases again.

The court did not elaborate on its reason for denying the request. Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, would have had to appoint special justices to preside over Griffen’s case if the justices recused themselves.

Griffen had blocked the state from using an execution drug over a medical company’s claims that it was misled by officials. Griffen and his attorney expressed disappointment in the court’s decision to not recuse itself.

“It is ironic that the same Justices who barred me for not recusing because of my general views on a topic which was not even before me at the time, will not recuse themselves despite their specific, negative views of me — a litigant who is before them right now,” Griffen said in a statement.

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