Courts weighing whether Arkansas executions can happen

AG Rutledge Works to Dismantle Roadblocks to Executions

The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted the executions of two men originally scheduled to be put to death Monday night, putting another legal roadblock in place in Arkansas' plan to conduct eight executions before the end of April.

In a split decision, the state's highest court halted the executions of convicted murderers Don Davis and Bruce Ward, who have spent over 20 years each on death row.

Baker granted a temporary injunction for all eight inmates, halting their executions on grounds including that the state's protocols violate US constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

Hutchinson and state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge have been pushing to carry out the executions anyway.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen had allowed himself to be strapped to a cot in a simulation of a prisoner awaiting execution by lethal injection on Friday at a protest outside the governor's mansion in Little Rock.

Meanwhile, the Arkansas Supreme Court also barred a state judge who blocked the multiple execution plan from taking up any death penalty related cases after he participated in a protest where he appeared to mimic a death row inmate about to receive a lethal injection. Crowds gather at a rally opposing Arkansas' upcoming executions, which are set to begin next week, on the front steps of the Capitol Friday, April 14, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark.

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.

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Griffen told AP on Saturday that he is opposed to the death penalty on moral grounds, but that shouldn't disqualify him from hearing certain cases.

The judge in question, Wendell Griffen, has since been removed from all cases involving the death penalty, under an order from the Arkansas Supreme Court, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. If it fails there, it can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The six remaining executions are on hold because of Baker's order and because a state circuit judge in Little Rock ordered the state to not use a lethal injection drug until questions are settled on how the state obtained it.

Arkansas' attorney general has asked a federal appeals court to reject a request for additional oral arguments in the case of seven condemned inmates scheduled to be executed over 11 days, starting today. The high court asked a disciplinary panel to consider whether Griffen violated the code of conduct for judges.

The inmates' attorneys say they were denied access to independent mental health experts. "The threat of irreparable harm to the plaintiffs is significant: If midazolam does not adequately anesthetize plaintiffs, or if their executions are 'botched, ' they will suffer severe pain before they die", Judge Baker wrote.

A separate federal court ruling has halted all of the executions.

If the attorney had to rush out to file an emergency petition, it would deprive the inmate of a lawyer to witness the execution, Baker said. Protesters gather outside the state Capitol building on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark., to voice their opposition to Arkansas' seven upcoming executions. If court proceedings are pushed into May, Arkansas won't be able to carry out the executions with the drugs it has on hand.

Rutledge also alleged that Griffen criticized the executions in a blog post earlier this month where he referred to the state's plans "to commit a series of homicides".

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