Arkansas court maintains stay for condemned man

18 April, 2017, 02:26 | Author: Jacqueline Ellis

Arkansas was still preparing for the lethal injections set for Monday for Ward and inmate Don Davis with the hopes of winning last-minute reversals of the various federal and state rulings blocking the executions, prisons spokesman Solomon Graves told reporters. In a petition to that court, Ward's attorneys described him as a diagnosed schizophrenic who has spent decades in solitary confinement without treatment for his mental illness and argued that he was not competent to be executed. Two others won stays of execution from state courts, leaving six of the original petitioners now in line for their executions to be carried out. The lawyers contend that the cocktail of drugs that the state plans to use will cause "unconstitutional pain, suffering and torture" if the midazolam does not work as planned.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision came hours after the Arkansas Supreme Court halted the executions of two men originally scheduled to be put to death Monday night.

A federal judge halted Arkansas' plans for execution.

On Monday, the state Supreme Court blocked Griffen from weighing in on death penalty cases after the judge partricipated in a protest at the governor's mansion on the same day he made his ruling.

Baker found that there was a significant possibility the inmates challenging the Arkansas death penalty would succeed in establishing a substantial risk of severe pain, satisfying the first prong of Glossip. The inmates' counsel could have brought a federal constitutional challenge anytime between now and then, the motion states. They say in their filings that the stays should be reversed immediately so Arkansas can carry out the executions before one of its lethal injection drugs expires at the end of the month. The federal judge, however, provided officials with an opportunity to address her concerns at a hearing on Monday. The drug prevents the diaphragm from moving, essentially suffocating the prisoners.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office said she would appeal the state ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The inmates' lawyers called on the state to drop its rush to use the midazolam before it expires.

Arkansas' supply of one key execution drug expires April 30. The San Francisco-based firm said Baker's ruling removed the imminent danger of the drugs being used for executions.

Arkansas employs potassium chloride in combination with vecuronium bromide and midazolam. The company said it'll continue efforts to have the drug returned.

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Baker pointed to these executions in her order, saying that testimony on these bungled or extended lethal injections "is personal and rings true".

Pharmaceutical company McKesson Medical-Surgical claimed the Department of Corrections essentially duped them in acquiring the drug, stating that they sold the vecuronium bromide under the pretense that it would be used for health reasons - not an execution.

"To protect the integrity of the judicial system this court has a duty to ensure that all are given a fair and impartial tribunal", said the Arkansas Supreme Court in its order.

"These thoughts weigh heavily on the court, but the court has a responsibility to uphold the Constitution".

On Saturday, Baker blocked Arkansas' plans to execute the eight inmates over 11 days.

A divided Arkansas Supreme Court granted stays of executions for two Arkansas inmates while the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a separate case next week concerning access to independent mental health experts by defendants.

Arkansas is fighting on multiple legal fronts to begin a series of double-executions.

Baker wrote she had determined that inmates would not have enough access to their attorneys under the Arkansas execution policy, saying that if only one attorney is permitted to witness the execution but must leave to petition a court, that inmate would be left without legal representation.

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