US Supreme Court does not allow Arkansas execution

The Supreme Court late Monday blocked the first of at least six executions planned in Arkansas over the next two weeks after a dizzying day of state and federal court disputes about lethal injection drugs, mental health claims and the right to legal representation.

The executions of Davis and Bruce Ward were supposed to be the first two, but Ward received a stay from the Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday and the state did not appeal the decision.

But Leslie Rutledge (R), the state's attorney general, quickly sought a review of what she described as a flawed decision, filing a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to vacate one of the two stays, focusing the state's efforts on trying to carry out one execution Monday night.

The plan for six to eight quick-fire executions in less than two weeks has never before been attempted in the modern era of the USA death penalty. He had been scheduled to die Monday night under the state's plan to put eight inmates to death before the end of the month.

The governor's office indicated it now meant to ask the state supreme court to reconsider its opinion upholding the stay, and to appeal the injunction directly to the U.S. supreme court. The justices are set to hold oral arguments on April 24. She argued that Arkansas's practice of lethal injection could be proven unconstitutional due to the possibility of "severe pain" before death.

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 US Constitution. Attorneys had asked for the stay while the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a separate case concerning inmates' access to independent mental health experts.

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

"Within an hour of grating the [order], Judge Griffen was photographed at a second anti-death penalty rally - this one at the Governor's mansion, where Judge Griffen lay strapped down to a cot to simulate the experience of a condemned prisoner on a gurney", said the petition. "Judge Griffen was protesting the very execution he had just enjoined".

The state was rushing to win approval to execute Davis before his death warrant expired at midnight.

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 this booking photo provided March 21, 2017. A pharmaceutical supplier alleges that the state bought the drug deceptively, actively misleading the seller about what it would be used for.

The state Supreme Court voted 4-3 to stay the executions of Davis and Ward.

These executions were announced months ago by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who said they had to be done in quick succession to use the state's final batch of the Midazolam before it expired at the end of April.

The state's highest court also referred Griffen to the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission to consider whether he violated the code of conduct for judges.

The executions had originally been expected to start on Monday. Asked whether the executions could still take place according to schedule, a spokesman for the department of corrections said: "Never say never". A state court judge on Friday blocked Arkansas from using one of its three lethal injection drugs until he can determine whether it was obtained properly, and a federal judge on Saturday issued stays of all the executions.

  • Larry Hoffman