Lawyers: Don't rush Arkansas executions decision

Local media report media witnesses are being selected and moved into place, though Mr. Davis has not been moved from his holding cell into the death chamber.

Addressing reporters after the decision, he explained that Davis would soon be returned to death row and that the staff had been prepared for the long evening and would be similarly prepared in the future.

The Supreme Court's decision came 10 minutes before the death warrant expired for one of these men, 56-year-old Don Davis.

Rutledge's office said she was only appealing Davis' stay to the U.S. Supreme Court, noting that Ward has two stays from the state high court. Critics contend it does not put a person in a deep enough state of unconsciousness and should not be used in executions.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who had set the multiple executions, said the state would continue to push to carry out the other executions.

"Allowing (Davis') stay to stand will effectively prevent Arkansas from seeing justice done", Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But a federal appeals court panel on Monday dissolved a stay from a federal judge who'd halted upcoming executions over concerns about midazolam, one of the three lethal injection drugs that Arkansas wants to use.

The drugs used in lethal injections by some American states - 19 of the 50 no longer execute prisoners - have become increasingly hard to obtain.

A federal appeals court has cleared one legal obstacle Arkansas faces in its plan to execute several inmates. But they are on a tight schedule: Executions were scheduled to begin Monday night, and if the legal proceedings take more than two weeks, the midazolam supply will have expired before any of the executions can take place.

Over the weekend, a district court judge had ruled that the inmates were likely to succeed in their challenge to the state's protocol. McKesson, the supplier that sued Arkansas to try and block the use of the vecuronium bromide, asked to drop its case after Baker's order but has left open the possibility it may refile its lawsuit if executions move forward.

Last week, the US Bishops' Conference's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development pleaded with the Governor of Arkansas to reconsider his plans to execute seven men in the next 11 days to use up the state's last batch of the controversial drug Midazolam because it is due to expire at the end of the month. Strict distribution controls imposed by more than 30 drug companies in the U.S. and overseas have made it very hard for death penalty states to lay their hands on medicines for use in the death chamber. But the Supreme Court declined to intervene early Tuesday, leaving the state supreme court's stay in effect and sparing Davis' life for the time being. The justices are set to hold oral arguments next week.

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.

Bruce Earl Ward and Don William Davis Jr were to be the first two inmates to be put to death in a series of four double executions scheduled over 11 days in the southern U.S. state. He wrote that Ward and Davis have had "decades of appeals" and that the victims' families deserved closure.

Rutledge was quick to respond to the Supreme Court's decision. Judge Jane Kelly, in a dissent, argued the the case was about more than which drugs are used to put inmates to death, and questioned whether Arkansas was in line with the Eight Amendment's "evolving standards of decency".

Inmates Bruce Ward (top row L to R), Don Davis, Ledell Lee, Stacy Johnson, Jack Jones (bottom row L to R), Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams and Jason Mcgehee are shown in these booking photo provided March 21, 2017.

The inmates' attorneys say they were denied access to independent mental health experts.

Braden said Ward is schizophrenic and Davis has organic brain damage and is intellectually disabled.

  • Larry Hoffman