Published: Tue, April 18, 2017
U.S. | By Vera Richards

Arkansas Pushes To Carry Out Executions, Fighting Court Rulings And The Clock

Arkansas Pushes To Carry Out Executions, Fighting Court Rulings And The Clock

The Arkansas court ruled 4-3 Monday to block the executions for Bruce Ward and Don Davis, who were originally scheduled to be put to death Monday night, though stays had been issued in separate court cases challenging their executions and six others planned this month. A federal judge issued stays for each of the inmates Saturday and a state court judge on Friday blocked prison officials from using a paralyzing drug until he could determine whether Arkansas obtained it properly.

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.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge did not say where she would seek a review, but she could ask either the Arkansas Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court for one.

"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.

The attorney general's office said Rutledge is " evaluating options" on how to proceed. 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.

The state's lawyers pressed the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow the executions to begin, saying that the inmates were simply stalling so a key lethal injection drug would expire. They include a post days before his ruling that criticized the execution push in Arkansas.

The state has not said whether it will appeal 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.

"It is unfortunate that a USA district judge has chosen to side with the convicted prisoners in one of their many last-minute attempts to delay justice", said Judd Deere, a spokesman for the office.

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The Arkansas Supreme Court halted two executions hours before they were scheduled to take place on Monday, as the state battled in various courts to carry out a plan that originally called for a record eight executions over 11 days in April.

"We do not require people to come into court with blank slates, either in their minds or their heart", he said Saturday. But the ruling did not change the situation because Baker's order had already halted all the executions.

Griffen scheduled a hearing for Tuesday morning, then joined anti-death penalty protesters outside the governor's mansion and tied himself to a cot as though he were an inmate on a death chamber gurney. A federal judge has also stayed the executions on different grounds, and the state has appealed that ruling.

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 inmates' attorneys say they were denied access to independent mental health experts. If court proceedings are pushed into May, Arkansas won't be able to carry out the executions with the drugs it has on hand.

The state was still moving forward with plans to conduct the Monday night executions in the event that all stays were lifted.

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

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