Arkansas court halts 2 executions set for Monday night
Apr 18, 2017, 01:21
Justices in a 4-3 decision granted stays Monday afternoon for Don Davis and Bruce Ward. The inmates wanted stays of execution while the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a case concerning access to independent mental health experts by defendants.
Rutledge spokesman Judd Deere said the office still holds the option to appeal the McGehee decision.
The state had planned to execute eight inmates in 11 days before its execution sedative midazolam reaches its expiration date.
On Friday, the Arkansas Supreme Court halted Ward's execution after lawyers for the inmate argued he was mentally incompetent.
Arkansas last put a prisoner to death in 2005, has not executed two prisoners on the same day since 1999 and has not killed six inmates in a single month since February 1926 - the state's record, according to the Correction Department. Former Arkansas death row inmate Damien Echols talks with the media before speaking at a rally opposing Arkansas' upcoming executions, which are set to begin next week, on the front steps of.
A new warrant could trigger another clemency hearing, which carries a built-in timeline that would extend beyond this month, Ward's attorneys said Friday.
The inmates asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to take its time reviewing transcripts and rulings, rather than complete their work in two days as the state has asked.
In its request that the 8th Circuit review whether the inmates should be spared because of society's "evolving standards of decency", the inmates lawyers say that even the executioners could benefit if Arkansas used a less-compressed timetable.
The planned executions - which would be the most carried out in a such a short time since the U.S. reinstated the death penalty in 1976 - have prompted widespread protests. The San Francisco-based firm said Baker's ruling removed the imminent danger of the drugs being used for executions.
"I understand how hard this is on the victims' families, and my heart goes out to them as they once again deal with the continued court review; however, the last minute court reviews are all part of the hard process of death penalty cases", Hutchinson said in a statement.
Three Arkansas justices dissented, with Associate Justice Shawn Womack writing that Ward and Davis "had their day in court, the jury spoke, and decades of appeals have occurred".
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted a temporary injunction for all eight inmates after deciding there is "a significant possibility" the inmates would succeed in their challenge that the method of their execution would violate Eighth Amendment protections against "cruel and unusual punishment".
Baker didn't rule fully in the inmates' favor.
"The schedule imposed on these officials, as well as their lack of recent execution experience, causes concern", she wrote. The prisoners' attorneys on Sunday appealed those dismissals to the 8th Circuit.
The executions would have started Monday night under Arkansas' aggressive plan to use a key drug before it expires at the end of April.
In her order Saturday, Baker cited troubled lengthy executions in Alabama, Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma that used the sedative midazolam.
Also on Friday, a state judge issued a temporary restraining order barring the state from administering one of three drugs it planned to use, vercuronium bromide. Rutledge's office on Saturday filed an emergency appeal with the Arkansas Supreme Court.
A separate federal court ruling has halted all of the executions. The execution orders were to expire at midnight.
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