Arkansas execution delayed as Supreme Court refuses to overrule state court

An Arkansas inmate set to die by lethal injection Monday remains alive after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against lifting a stay of execution.

The attorney general and governor are vowing to pursue a series of executions scheduled over the next two weeks even after the state's Supreme Court halted the first two lethal injections hours before they were to take place.

Ward, 60, and Davis, 55, were being held in cells near the state's death chamber and their execution warrants expired at midnight (0500 GMT Tuesday). "Davis was convicted of his crimes in 1992". An effort from Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to overturn his stay was rejected by the state Supreme Court.

FILE - This 2013 file photo provided by the Arkansas Department of Correction shows Don William Davis, who has been scheduled for execution Monday, April 17, 2017. They include a post days before his ruling that criticized the execution push in Arkansas.

While the two Monday night executions sit in legal limbo, the rest of the executions for now seem to be on track to go ahead as planned. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court has the final say and has decided not to lift the stay at this time. Womack also said the decision denies justice for relatives of the men's victims, who "are entitled to closure and finality of the law".

However, the state continued to face a roadblock to its execution plans for both Ward and Davis in the form of a stay from local courts that was affirmed by the supreme court of Arkansas, the top legal panel in the state.

Earlier Monday, a federal appeals court sided with the state in a challenge brought by the death-row inmates largely based on questions surrounding the sedative - midazolam - that is due to expire soon.

His attorney sought a stay of execution, and on Monday, the Arkansas Supreme Court granted a delay in the executions of Davis and another inmate, Bruce Ward.

This ruling comes after the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Judge Kristine Baker's emergency stay which blocked the executions.

Davis was sentenced to death for the 1990 death of Jane Daniel in Rogers, Arkansas. Ward, in the meantime, has one other stay granted by the Arkansas Supreme Court, and it now remains.

The separate 8th Circuit Court decision vacated a ruling made over the weekend by a US district judge that halted all eight executions. Oral arguments for that case aren't expected until April 24 and will discuss what rights inmates are allowed for an independent expert to assess their health. But the appeals court said the use of the method of execution, which includes midazolam, did not create undue severe pain. Many pharmaceutical companies, particularly in Europe, ban their use for executions. The two are among eight Arkansas inmates facing possible execution this month amid a flurry of legal actions involving all eight cases.

Arkansas set up a schedule to execute eight prisoners before its supply of the sedative midazolam expires at the end of the month.

"Earlier this evening Don Davis did receive his last meal which consisted of fried chicken, rolls, great northern beans and mashed potatoes, fruit punch and strawberry cake for dessert", Graves said.

In another surprising and separate development, the Arkansas Supreme Court late in the day also lifted a lower court's order that prohibited the state from using its supply of vecuronium bromide, one of three drugs used in the lethal cocktail.

DeMillo reported from Little Rock.

  • Larry Hoffman