Arkansas execution delayed as Supreme Court refuses to overrule state court

20 April, 2017, 11:12 | Author: Valerie Burke
  • Arkansas execution delayed as Supreme Court refuses to overrule state court

Plans by the U.S. state of Arkansas to execute up to eight men before the end of the month received a setback after the United States supreme court intervened to spare the life of a death-row prisoner, minutes before his planned execution.

Justices turned down Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's request to vacate a stay for Don Davis, 54, who was set to die Monday night by lethal injection.

After the US Supreme Court and the Arkansas Supreme Court delivered the stays, Arkansas authorities vowed to push on with their state's first executions since 2005.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was "disappointed" by the ruling.

There are still five Arkansas executions scheduled before the end of April; a state parole board voted to recommend one of the original eight death row inmates, Jason McGehee, for clemency. It's the quickest timetable in Arkansas since 1926, though state officials say waiting more than two decades to put some of the killers to death could hardly be characterized as swift.

The drug supplier, McKesson Corp., had stated that the drug manufacturer prohibited vecuronium for use in executions and that Arkansas had purchased it under false pretenses. That case, McWilliams v. Dunn, is scheduled for oral arguments on April 24.

The high court stayed the executions of Davis and Ward.

However, Griffin also attended a protest against capital punishment outside the governor's mansion on Friday.

Rutledge's office said she was only appealing Davis' stay to the U.S. Supreme Court, noting Ward has two stays from the state high court. Federal Judge Kristine Baker followed up on April 15 with a preliminary stay of executions.

"Both Mr. Ward and Mr. Davis were denied independent mental health experts to help their defense attorneys investigate, understand and present these critical mental health issues to the jury", Scott Braden, an assistant federal defender who represents both men, said in a statement.

After the executions were halted, Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock said, "I would like to thank everyone who has prayed and worked so hard to prevent these scheduled executions from taking place". McKesson cited a testimony from Rory Griffin, ADC Deputy Director, in which he said ADC "undertook these actions" knowing that the manufacturer of the drug doesn't permit it to be used in executions. Twice in 1997, Texas executed eight prisoners in a single month, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The ruling was the latest in a series of legal hurdles that the state has faced since it announced in February its plans to execute eight men in a 10-day span.

Lawyers for Davis and Ward argue the two did not have adequate access to independent mental health experts at trial. The state chose not to appeal that decision.

If the state had moved ahead with its 11-day execution plan, it would have been the most inmates put to death by any state in such a short period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Davis says now the whole process would have to start over.

Both Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, the chair of the U.S. bishops' domestic justice and human development committee, have spoken out against the planned executions.

As for the first drug, midazolam, it has been used in botched executions in the past.

Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

Two other Arkansas inmates - Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson - are scheduled to die Thursday.

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