Ethics case is tossed against judge who protested death penalty while ruling in execution drug dispute

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The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission has tossed an ethics case against a judge who participated in death-penalty protests on the same day that he issued a decision barring the state from using an execution drug.

The commission said this week it was dismissing the case because too much time had elapsed since the April 2017 ethics complaint was filed, report the Associated Press and the Arkansas Times.

The judge, Wendell Griffen, had been photographed at a protest lying on a cot wearing an anti-death-penalty button, while others held signs opposing capital punishment. Griffen has said he was portraying Jesus and participating in a prayer vigil in the Good Friday demonstrations; past reports said he was portraying a condemned inmate.

The Arkansas Supreme Court had removed Griffen from hearing capital cases because of his participation in the protests. Ethics charges were filed against six out of seven Arkansas Supreme Court justices alleging that they did not give Griffen sufficient time to respond to its planned action. That ethics case was dismissed in November.

Griffen had blocked the use of vercuronium bromide after the drug distributor alleged that the state had duped it into providing the drug for executions. Griffen told the Arkansas Times that he merely had restrained the state from using the drug until he could have a full hearing, a result compelled by the law.

“The ethics case against me is over,” Griffen told the Arkansas Times. “Now, I demand that the Supreme Court of Arkansas restore my power to hear and decide cases involving the death penalty and method of execution.”

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