US Supreme Court blocks execution

Tough Talk on North Korea

The scheduled executions of two Arkansas death row inmates were halted after that state's Supreme Court granted stays Monday afternoon, effectively delaying the state's plan to execute the men by lethal injection before supplies of a key drug expire.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was "disappointed in this delay for the victim's family", though he noted that no stays now block executions for five other condemned inmates scheduled to die before the month's end.

McKesson contends that the state failed to disclose the vecuronium bromide it purchased would be used in its three-drug lethal injection protocol.

Arkansas was set to begin an 11-day execution spree of seven prisoners on Monday, but state and federal rulings created roadblocks that put the state's aggressive plan in jeopardy. But they are on a tight schedule: Executions were scheduled to begin Monday night, and if the legal proceedings take more than two weeks, the midazolam supply will have expired before any of the executions can take place.

That tally would have marked the highest concentration of executions over such a short period in a single state since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed reinstitution of capital punishment in 1976.

The state also argued that U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker abused her discretion on Saturday when she ruled about potential harm from midazolam.

Arkansas has since run into multiple obstacles in carrying out the executions. A medical supply company come forward to state that Arkansas had misled them said it had misled them by stating that the drug would be used for medical purposes, not executions.

Lawyers for the condemned also say that the accelerated executions could take a severe toll on the small team of penitentiary employees who carry out the death penalty, and who have not had to do so for 12 years.

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.

Both inmates' lawyers claim their clients are too mentally impaired to face capital punishment and were not offered a proper mental health screening.

The Arkansas Supreme Court had rejected an effort from Rutledge's office to overturn the stay of Bruce Ward, another inmate who was also scheduled to die Monday. They filed a separate petition for stays yesterday with the US Supreme Court over a procedural matter.

The state is not planning to appeal Ward's stay at this time.

The new complaint mirrors one filed last week that Friday resulted in Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issuing a stay of all executions Arkansas scheduled through the end of the month.

The state has not said whether it will appeal against 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.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overruled that judge, stating in its opinion that there's only "equivocal evidence" that midazolam will raise the risk of a painful execution.

Critics have called the planned executions an inhumane "assembly line". 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 state was rushing to get approval to execute convicted killer Don Davis before his death warrant was expected to expire at midnight.

While the last-minute appeals raised technical issues involving the defendants' legal rights and courts' jurisdiction, the state's effort to execute its first prisoners since 2005 focused largely on the drugs to be used.



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