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Judge to consider Arkansas’ plan to execute 7 in 11 days



US District Judge Kristine Baker heard arguments Monday that Arkansas’ aggressive execution timetable raises the risk that the deaths of seven inmates will be cruel and unusual.

Rick McFarland/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via Associated Press

US District Judge Kristine Baker heard arguments Monday that Arkansas’ aggressive execution timetable raises the risk that the deaths of seven inmates will be cruel and unusual.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Lawyers for Arkansas inmates set to die this month because a key execution drug is expiring argued in federal court Monday that the state’s aggressive timetable raises the risk that their deaths will be cruel and unusual.

Seven men are scheduled to die between April 17 and 27. Another inmate has received a stay. They fear that a key sedative, midazolam, won’t prevent them from feeling the pain caused by other drugs that will shut down their lungs and heart.

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The state’s solicitor general, Lee Rudofsky, told US District Judge Kristine Baker the inmates’ claims have been tried in other courts and that they aren’t entitled to additional legal battles.

He said “enough is enough” and that the state should be allowed to carry out lawful executions.

Baker was appointed to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas by President Barack Obama. She has had a hand in key decisions on several social issues in the state.

Baker, 46, ruled in 2014 that Arkansas’ gay marriage ban was unconstitutional. A year later, she blocked an Arkansas law that would have restricted the use of abortion pills.

From 1996 to 1998, Baker was a clerk for the chief judge, Susan Webber Wright, on the federal court where Baker now sits.

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During that time, Wright handled Paula Jones’s sexual harassment lawsuit against then-President Bill Clinton and also reversed the death sentence of a man convicted of killing his former in-laws.

The Eighth US Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated Si-Fu William Frank Parker’s death sentence and he was ultimately executed.

Conner Eldridge, who clerked at Baker’s law firm 15 years ago and went on to become the US attorney for western Arkansas before an unsuccessful Senate run, praised her work ethic.

‘‘She’ll work around the clock if she needs to get the right result for this,’’ Eldridge said Friday, noting that he didn’t have any cases before Baker while he was a prosecutor.

In addition to decisions on gay marriage and abortion, major rulings she has made include ordering the state last year not to block Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood because of undercover videos antiabortion activists made of themselves trying to buy fetal tissue.


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