Arkansas vows to keep pushing for executions despite setback

US Supreme Court spares Arkansas inmate from execution

The courts decision was the second time Don Davis has been granted a reprieve shortly before execution — he came within hours of death in 2010. He said the state has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule the state high court with "a decision later tonight".

The legal fight in Arkansas follows that of other states, including Arizona and Oklahoma, where critics argue midazolam, the sedative used in lethal injections, does not put a person in a deep enough state of unconsciousness.

One of the five Arkansas inmates who are still scheduled to die before the end of the month is due at a hearing regarding his request for further DNA testing of evidence from his case.

The state has not said whether it will appeal against a federal judge's decision to grant a stay to another inmate, Jason McGehee, who had won a clemency recommendation from the state parole board.

Earlier in the day, the state had cleared two of the main obstacles to resuming executions. The lawyers say a U.S. Supreme Court case originating in Alabama that deals with being entitled to such expertise would have implications for their cases. The original plan was to double the executions over four nights, prior to the state's supply of lethal injection drugs expired.

Davis and fellow inmate Bruce Ward were the first two men scheduled to die in the 10-day spate of executions.

Meanwhile, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit vacated April 17 a federal judge's preliminary stay of executions which had been handed down April 15.

The legal issue that halted Monday's executions for Ward and Davis hinged on a separate, broader case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning a defendant's access to independent experts, and attorneys say the justices' ruling could potentially affect the inmates' criminal convictions. The supplier said it refunded the state, which never returned the drug. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the Alabama case on April 24.

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The new complaint mirrors one filed last week that Friday resulted in Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issuing a stay of all executions Arkansas scheduled through the end of the month.

"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.

As the lawsuits played out Monday, the state's execution facility was braced for a rapid reversal of the decisions.

McKesson Drug Company filed a new lawsuit Tuesday over the drugs planned to be used in the upcoming executions.

Griffen's protest has sparked outrage among death penalty supporters, including Republican lawmakers who described it as judicial misconduct and potential grounds for Griffen's removal from the bench. Despite some legal setbacks for the state, it was still possible the executions could begin at 7 p.m. Monday. The governor was monitoring the courts and planned to visit with the attorney general and Arkansas Department of Correction leaders to discuss any next steps.

The bishop said the timing for these executions "was not set by the demands of justice, but by the arbitrary politics of punishment", referring to the state's supply of the sedative used in executions. McKesson discovered that the drug was to be used for executions and demanded the state return the drug, promising a refund.

Lee has also asked a federal judge to stay his execution. She also said the protocol doesn't lay out what executioners intend to do to ensure that the inmates are unconscious.

(END OPTIONAL TRIM.) A spokesman for the state prison system, Solomon Graves, said the Arkansas authorities would be prepared to carry out the other executions that Hutchinson set.

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