Broad stays are lifted in Arkansas executions, but two prisoners set to die win temporary reprieves

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Death Penalty


gavel and lethal injection

Two Arkansas inmates scheduled to die Monday in the first of a series of executions remain alive as a result of action by the state’s top court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Acting shortly before midnight, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to lift a stay issued Monday by the Arkansas Supreme Court that prevented the execution of one of the inmates, Don Davis, report the Washington Post, Arkansas Times, New York Times and Arkansas Online.

Lawyers for Davis had argued his case should be stayed pending a U.S. Supreme Court decision in another case on whether indigent defendants with mental health issues are entitled to expert witnesses to help them prepare their cases, according to the New York Times. The court hears arguments in the expert witness case April 24.

The stay also applied to the other inmate set to die, Bruce Ward, who had already received an Arkansas Supreme Court stay on Friday. The earlier stay was granted after Ward’s lawyers sought an evaluation of whether he is mentally capable of understanding his punishment.

The state is not planning to appeal Ward’s stay at this time.

Two broader stays based on questions about the execution drugs were lifted on Monday. The St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a stay issued by a federal judge who cited issues with the efficacy of the sedative midazolam, one of three drugs used in the execution process.

And the Arkansas Supreme Court lifted a stay issued by a state judge who blocked use of a second drug, vercuronium bromide, after the drug maker argued it had provided the drug in the belief it was being used for medical purposes. The judge, Wendell Griffen, had participated in death-penalty protests the same day he issued the decision, and the state supreme court removed him from hearing all capital cases.

The state still plans to execute five other inmates before the end of the month. A federal judge has blocked the execution of an eighth inmate.

ABA President Linda Klein had asked Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to delay the executions. Klein expressed concern in a letter that the execution schedule “prioritizes expediency above due process.”




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