Arkansas Supreme Court Halts 2 Executions

Arkansas Department of Correction via AP File Don Davis

But the Supreme Court - which now includes Neil Gorsuch - left in place the stay of execution that the state court had imposed due to concerns about Davis' mental competency.

(END OPTIONAL TRIM.) In a sharply worded dissent on Monday, Associate Justice Shawn A. Womack of the State Supreme Court complained about the delay that allowed Davis and Ward, who was also convicted of capital murder, to live.

Until word of the decision from Washington reached the prison here in rural southeast Arkansas, state officials were optimistic that the justices would allow them to proceed with Davis' execution.

In another case, Baker cancelled an April 18 hearing in which the lawyers for Marcel Williams, who is scheduled to be executed April 24, meant to argue that because of his obesity, Arkansas' lethal injection protocol is not likely to kill him and could cause organ damage. That's true whether it's the inmate who is seeking an eleventh-hour reprieve or the state that wants to put a prisoner to death.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a request by the state of Arkansas to execute its first prisoner, making it even more hard for the state to carry out its eight scheduled executions before the end of April.

The court voted 4-3 to stay the executions of Don Davis and Bruce Ward. At the time, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer dissented.

Mckesson has said it will continue its "efforts to facilitate the return of our product and ensure that it is used in line with our supplier agreement".

In a statement, assistant federal defender Scott Braden praised the ruling. Davis has organic brain damage and is intellectually disabled, while Ward has "life-long schizophrenia", the attorney said.

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The 8th Circuit ruling on Monday could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. We will you updated on all the latest execution news.

If the state had been able to move ahead with its 11-day execution plan, it would have been the most inmates put to death by any state in such a short period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The next executions are scheduled for Thursday. The U.S. Supreme Court later declined to overturn that ruling. With a 500 mg dose listed in the state's execution protocol, Arkansas expects that the inmates will not be aware they are dying. The original plan was to double the executions over four nights, prior to the state's supply of lethal injection drugs expired. The state's highest court also later vacated Griffen's order blocking executioners from using vecuronium bromide. A pharmaceutical supplier alleges that the state bought the drug deceptively, actively misleading the seller about what it would be used for.

The justices also took direct action against Judge Griffen by barring him from hearing any death penalty, execution or drug protocal cases. The suit argued there was an unacceptably high risk they would suffer during the executions.

A lower court judge ruled in favor last Friday. The state and attorneys for the remaining men launched a flurry of appeals, too.

The inmates' legal team urged a three-judge panel to avoid a "rushed analysis of this complex record".

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said the Supreme Court's decision was "heartbreaking" but that her office will continue to respond to all legal challenges brought by the death row prisoners.

(Stephen B. Thornton/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP).

The court battles are playing out on multiple fronts as the state's supply of midazolam expires on April 30.

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