U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Arkansas Request to Begin Executions

It capped a chaotic day of legal wrangling in state and federal courts Monday as Arkansas tried to clear obstacles to carrying out its first executions since 2005.

There are also two executions scheduled for April 24 and one scheduled for April 27. The canceled execution of a condemned prisoner here was a significant setback for the state, which had sought to put eight men to death this month, before its stock of a lethal injection drug expired. McGehee was convicted of the 1996 killing of John Melbourne, Jr.

A stay was earlier placed on Ward's sentence by an Arkansas court. The court said it granted the stays due to McWilliams v. Dunn, a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court involving the question of whether indigent defendants are entitled to independent expert witnesses.

Despite the setbacks, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said Arkansas would press ahead with other planned executions, including two set for Thursday - Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson.

The high court's order sparing Davis offered no explanation, but none of the justices voted in favor of lifting the stay.

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.

A federal appeals court late Monday overturned a federal judge's decision over the weekend to temporarily stay the executions.

But there was a victory for the state when a federal court lifted an order that blocked all seven executions because of suffering caused by the lethal injection.

McKesson alleges that it filled the state's order for the drug under the notion that ADC would use it for "legitimate medical objective, consistent with Arkansas State Medical Board Regulations", which state in part that licensed physicians can not administer risky or controlled drugs to someone for a reason other than a legitimate medical goal. However, one of the stipulations is that the company cannot sell the drug to federal and state correctional facilities that engage in capital punishment.

If granted approval Don Davis could be the first of several prisoners in the southeastern state executed in the next 10 days, an unprecedented pace. Another, vecuronium bromide, was said by its manufacturer to have been obtained by the state under false pretenses. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday reversed her decision. The company "is committed to ensuring that its property is only used in a manner consistent with our supplier agreement", the statement noted.

The legal team representing the inmates argues the state's rapid execution schedule increases the likelihood the procedures will be botched, and that the drugs used amount to cruel and unusual punishment. "While this has been an exhausting day for all involved, tomorrow we will continue to fight back on last minute appeals and efforts to block justice for the victims' families", the statement read.

McKesson filed a complaint April 18 in Pulaski County Circuit Court seeking a restraining order and injunction to prevent the vecuronium it supplied from being used "for something other than a legitimate medical objective".

The medical supplier McKesson Corp. made a similar request in a separate case before a Pulaski County circuit judge, which he granted.

McKesson alleges that the Arkansas Department of Corrections illegally obtained certain the execution drug Vecuronium in July 2016, by not disclosing they were buying the drug with the intent to execute prisoners. He was given a stay in early April.

The planned executions have renewed the debate over lethal injection in particular and capital punishment in general, which has been in decline for almost two decades.

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