Arkansas Supreme Court halts executions for 2 men set to die Mon

18 April, 2017, 01:37 | Author: Michele Stevens
  • AG Rutledge Works to Dismantle Roadblocks to Executions

Justices granted the stays Monday afternoon for Don Davis and Bruce Ward.

Arkansas was still preparing for the lethal injections set for Monday for Ward and inmate Don Davis with the hopes of winning last-minute reversals of the various federal and state rulings blocking the executions, prisons spokesman Solomon Graves told reporters.

Attorney General Rutledge filed an appeal of Ward's stay on Saturday, saying the stay was "without merit".

Manufacturers object to states using their drugs in executions, and the Arkansas Department of Corrections said in previous court filings that it doesn't have a way of obtaining more of the sedative midazolam.

The attorney general's office said Rutledge is " evaluating options" on how to proceed.

The state had scheduled eight men to die over the course of 11 days, because one of the drugs it planned to use in the executions expires at the end of April.

The state of Arkansas appealed and has asked for a quick decision.

A divided Arkansas Supreme Court granted stays of executions for two Arkansas inmates while the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a separate case next week concerning access to independent mental health experts by defendants.

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The fight in Arkansas, which has not held an execution in 12 years, came after US executions fell to a quarter-century low in 2016 and as several capital-punishment states have been sidelined due to problems with lethal injection drugs and legal questions over their protocols. Protesters gather outside the state Capitol building on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark., to voice their opposition to Arkansas' seven upcoming executions. The high court asked a disciplinary panel to consider whether Griffen violated the code of conduct for judges.

Lawyers for the state have appeals pending before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court.

Arkansas is asking the state's highest court to reconsider its decision to halt the execution of one of the first inmates who had been scheduled to die under a plan to execute several men before the end of the month.

On Monday, the state Supreme Court blocked Griffen from weighing in on death penalty cases after the judge partricipated in a protest at the governor's mansion on the same day he made his ruling.

The Arkansas Supreme Court reassigned capital cases on the docket of the judge, Wendell Griffen, in an assignment order (PDF) on Monday, Arkansas Online reports.

In its request that the 8th Circuit review whether the inmates should be spared because of society's "evolving standards of decency", the inmates lawyers say that even the executioners could benefit if Arkansas used a less-compressed timetable. The inmates say midazolam is unsuitable because it is not a painkiller and could subject them to a cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Some states have barred the use of the drug, and courts have reached different decisions on what inmates would have to do to suggest alternative means of execution.

The state's mixture of drugs used in executions has brought legal challenges, and Baker's ruling on Saturday also raised questions about whether one of them, midazolam, was effective enough at preventing pain during executions. If court proceedings are pushed into May, Arkansas won't be able to carry out the executions with the drugs it has on hand.

Arkansas is fighting on multiple legal fronts to begin a series of double-executions.

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