Arkansas inmates try variety of arguments to avoid death

With a 500 mg dose listed in the state's execution protocol, Arkansas expects that the inmates will not be aware they are dying.

Rosenzweig also represents two other inmates scheduled to die this month - Jack Jones and Kenneth Williams.

Meanwhile, in another ruling, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis overruled a lower U.S. court decision that blocked Arkansas' plan to execute eight inmates in 11 days.

On Monday afternoon, the State Supreme Court stayed the execution of Don W. Davis, who was convicted more than a quarter-century ago of a murder in northwestern Arkansas.

Arkansas has since run into multiple obstacles in carrying out the executions.

Those moves came after the state had faced a series of legal setbacks in its plan to rush through the executions, an accelerated schedule it said was necessary because its supply of one of the drugs used, midazolam, was about to expire.

Despite the setbacks, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said Arkansas would press ahead with other planned executions, including two set for Thursday - Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson. The state appealed Davis' stay, but did not appeal Ward's. His death warrant expires at midnight Monday.

Just one day after the Arkansas Supreme Court threw out a temporary restraining order, McKesson Medical-Surgical Incorporated have filed a new lawsuit asking for the State of Arkansas to return its supply of one of the drugs used in the executions. "While this has been an exhausting day for all involved, tomorrow we will continue to fight back on last minute appeals and efforts to block justice for the victims' families", the statement read.

The legal fight in Arkansas, which last put someone to death 12 years ago, came after the number of USA executions fell to a quarter-century low in 2016.

Officials in Arkansas drew global criticism in February when they announced plans to execute eight prisoners over ten days in an attempt to use up the state's supply of lethal injection drugs before it expired at the end of the month.

Davis was convicted of the 1992 killing of Jane Daniel, and Ward of the 1989 killing of Rebecca Doss. The inmates wanted stays of execution while the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a separate case concerning access to independent mental health experts by defendants.

"The schedule of executions was not set by the demands of justice, but by the arbitrary politics of punishment", he said.

Both inmates' lawyers claim their clients are too mentally impaired to face capital punishment and were not offered a proper mental health screening. Mr. Ward has severe and life-long schizophrenia, breaks with reality, and delusions, such as seeing demon dogs at the foot of his bed since childhood.

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

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit also reversed the decision by Judge Baker halting the executions over the use of midazolam.

Governor Asa Hutchinson said the state would continue to push for the other lethal injections to be carried out.

The judge determined that their concerns were sufficient to halt the executions for the time being, to allow the issue to be considered by the courts.

It has asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to reconsider its decision to put on hold the first of the scheduled lethal injections, of Bruce Earl Ward, after his legal team argued he is a diagnosed schizophrenic with no rational understanding of his impending execution. The state and its lawyers say the inmates are seeking any legal approach they can find in their efforts to avoid death.

  • Larry Hoffman