Sunday, 23 July, 2017

Drug company sues Arkansas again over execution plans

Inmates on death row in Arkansas Inmates on death row in Arkansas
Kelley Robertson | 19 April, 2017, 01:31

Also on Monday, the court granted an additional stay to Ward and a stay for Davis on a claim that their executions should both be stayed pending the outcome of a case before the US Supreme Court now, McWilliams v. Dunn. He is one of two inmates scheduled for execution Thursday. It's the second time in seven years that Davis has come within hours of execution before courts intervened.

Bruce Ward was also scheduled to be executed Monday night and had been granted a stay by the state Supreme Court. The state has not appealed that decision.

The legal fighting had centred on a series of planned lethal injections that, if carried out, would mark the most inmates put to death by a state in such a short period since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The state's highest court granted a stay on Monday afternoon.

In a statement, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson expressed his "frustration in the continued delayed justice".

State and federal court rulings have stayed executions for two other inmates, and the state has yet to appeal those decisions.

Both Davis and Ward are represented by attorney Scott Braden, who argues that each man is too mentally ill to be subjected to this brutal punishment.

"Mr Davis has organic brain damage, intellectual disability, a history of head injuries, fetal alcohol syndrome, and other severe mental health conditions".

The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit - sitting en banc, meaning the whole appeals court - ruled 7-1 against the inmates Monday evening in ending the stay of execution entered by the district court. The court hears arguments in the expert witness case on April 24.

The remaining executions are due to take place in the coming weeks - critics call it a "conveyor-belt of death" - although the remaining death row inmates also look likely to raise last-minute legal challenges. Federal Judge Kristine Baker followed up on April 15 with a preliminary stay of executions.

After not executing anyone since 2005, Arkansas had scheduled eight executions in 10 days, starting April 17, Easter Monday.

Earlier in the day, the state had cleared two of the main obstacles to resuming executions.

Attorneys for the two inmates, both convicted of murder, praised the Arkansas court's decision.

The state scheduled the executions to occur before its supply of midazolam expires at the end of the month, and Arkansas has not found a new supplier of the lethal injection drug. It is the state's only supply and state officials have been able to locate another source. A state court judge on Friday blocked Arkansas from using one of its three lethal injection drugs until he can determine whether it was obtained properly, and a federal judge on Saturday issued stays of all the executions.

The drug raised concerns after it was used in executions in three U.S. states in 2014 that took longer than usual. The suit argued there was an unacceptably high risk they would suffer during the executions.

The judge determined that their concerns were sufficient to halt the executions for the time being, to allow the issue to be considered by the courts.

The executions had originally been expected to start on Monday.

Check back with Arkansas Online for updates and read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

The state is determined these executions be carried out, but those who have campaigned against the methods of execution will do all they can to block them.

The unprecedented pace at which Arkansas will put the seven men to death has drawn worldwide attention.

Davis shot and killed 62-year-old Jane Daniel in October 1990.

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