Lawyers: Don't rush Arkansas executions decision

Arkansas asked a USA appeals court on Monday to allow a record eight executions before its lethal injection drugs expire, saying a lower court abused its discretion when it blocked the state from carrying out its plan to put the inmates to death this month.

On Friday, the state's highest court stayed Ward's pending execution.

State and federal rulings have blocked the state's plan to execute eight inmates before its supply of a lethal injection drug expires at the end of April. Ward's attorneys have argued he is a diagnosed schizophrenic with no rational understanding of his impending execution.

"The people of the United States have spoken out against this horrific conveyer belt of death and we are relieved that the judge has temporarily stopped these executions".

Among the decisions the state is appealing is one from a federal judge who on Saturday halted all of the executions so the inmates could pursue claims their deaths could be especially painful.

The Arkansas court said four of its seven justices agreed to keep the stay in place.

Lawyers for inmates facing a series of double executions in Arkansas say a federal appeals court should schedule oral arguments as it considers whether to dissolve or preserve the execution stays imposed by a lower court judge.

The original plan had two condemned prisoners, Bruce Ward and Don Davis, set to receive lethal injections starting Monday night around 7:00 p.m.

"I understand how hard this is on the victims' families, and my heart goes out to them as they once again deal with the continued court review; however, the last minute court reviews are all part of the hard process of death penalty cases", Hutchinson said in a statement. She dismissed their claims that the compressed execution schedule risks causing needless suffering and impedes their right to counsel.

If they aren't knocked out sufficiently, they would be able to feel the pain of their lungs and hearts stopping, they say. Rutledge's office says the court indicated that three justices would have denied the request.

"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. The judge last week prohibited the state from using a lethal injection drug a supplier said was misleadingly obtained. Griffen, who served 12 years on the state appeals court, previously battled with the judicial discipline panel over remarks he made criticizing President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq.

"There will be [a] ruling from the Supreme Court, assuming a party takes it to the Supreme Court", based on previous history, Rosenzweig said. It said Thursday that it issued Arkansas a refund of its purchase price, but that the drug wasn't returned. They noted that Oklahoma began requiring a week between single executions after flaws were uncovered after Clayton Lockett's death during a midazolam execution in 2014.

Arkansas is making preparations for a series of executions that, as of late morning Monday, it is legally barred from carrying out.

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.

"The court is mindful of the fact that the state of Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005, despite consistent support for capital punishment for Arkansawyers and their elected representatives", Baker wrote. The execution orders were to expire at midnight.

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

A different federal judge has issued a stay for an inmate who won a clemency recommendation from the state's Parole Board, while the state Supreme Court has issued one for another inmate pending more mental health tests.

The "request is nothing more than an attempt to manipulate the judicial process and make it impossible for Arkansas to carry out Appellees' just and lawful sentences", the motion states.

"If we don't carry out the executions scheduled for [today], we will wait to hear from the governor's office as to what our next steps will be", Graves said.

  • Elsie Buchanan