Multiple Arkansas executions blocked by judge

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Media captionArkansas victim’s husband: ‘My wife suffered big time’

Two court rulings dealt a blow to the US state of Arkansas in its attempt to put to death seven inmates within days.

The first, on Wednesday evening, halted the execution due the following day of Stacey Johnson so he could make fresh DNA claims to prove his innocence.

Moments later, a district judge blocked the use of one of the lethal injection drugs, halting all seven executions.

The pace of executions – originally eight in 11 days – has prompted criticism from rights’ groups.

Johnson was convicted of the murder of Carol Heath, who was beaten and had her throat slit in her flat in 1993.

Her two young children were at home at the time.

What did the two rulings say?

He was one of two inmates due to be put to death on Thursday, but the Arkansas Supreme Court granted his request for a stay.

Johnson will now have the chance to make his case in a lower court for further DNA testing.

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Media caption‘My life on death row is like twilight zone’

The second ruling, by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray, has wider impact because it affects all seven inmates.

She backed a lawsuit by drugs company McKesson, the supplier of the muscle relaxant vecuronium bromide.

The company argued that it had been sold to the prison system on the understanding it would be used solely for medical purposes.

What has the response been?

Rights group Repreive lauded the county court’s ruling, saying Arkansas obtained the drug through deception.

It said this was the first time in US legal history that a private company had brought direct legal action to prevent the misuse of medicines in executions

In an email to the BBC, the Arkansas attorney general’s office said it would appeal against the ruling.

Like many US states, Arkansas has struggled to find the drugs it needs to carry out executions. Its last was in 2005.

What did all these men do?

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Eight were originally set to die, before Jason McGehee (bottom left) was granted a temporary stay

Bruce Ward – Strangled teenage shop clerk Rebecca Doss

Don Davis – Condemned for the execution-style killing of Jane Daniel as he burgled her home

Stacey Johnson – Murdered Carol Heath, who was beaten, strangled and had her throat slit

Ledell Lee – Bludgeoned Debra Reese to death with a tyre iron her husband had given her for protection

Jack Jones – Condemned for the rape and murder of accounts clerk Mary Phillips, and the nearly fatal beating of her 11-year-old daughter

Marcel Williams – Raped and murdered Stacey Erickson, after kidnapping her from a convenience store

Kenneth Williams – Murdered farmer Cecil Boren during an escape from prison where Williams had been incarcerated for murdering cheerleader Dominique Hurd

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