Arkansas inmates try variety of arguments to avoid death

Katrina Soto
April 21, 2017

Justices declined an appeal from the state's attorney general to lift a stay barring the execution of Don Davis, who was slated to be the first of several inmates to die this month.

Griffen's protest has sparked outrage among death penalty supporters, including Republican lawmakers who described it as judicial misconduct and potential grounds for Griffen's removal from the bench. The state Supreme Court also lifted a lower court ruling preventing the state from using another lethal injection drug that a supplier said was sold to be used for medical purposes, not executions.

(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.

The issue was that the state made the decision not to challenge Ward's stay, but the Supreme Court was mulling over whether to put Davis to death.

The order does not affect executions still planned for Thursday and next week, among eight originally scheduled with unprecedented haste over an 11-day period because of the looming deadline.

"Their families, who've had to go through this nightmare for 20, 25, 30 years, and the justice they were hoping to get, they will once again, not", said J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Governor Asa Hutchinson. A stay was earlier placed on Ward's sentence by an Arkansas court.

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.

The US Supreme Court on Monday denied a last-minute request from Arkansas state authorities for permission to carry out its first execution in more than a decade.

Braden said Ward is schizophrenic and Davis has organic brain damage and is intellectually disabled.

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It is just east of Wylie Bay, the location in which Sean Pollard was attacked by two great white sharks in October 2014. A 17-year-old girl died Monday after she was attacked by a shark while surfing off the coast of Western Australia .

Arkansas has faced a barrage of legal challenges, which have so far resulted in three of the executions being halted and criticism that it was acting recklessly.

The state has said it had to act quickly because one of the drugs in its difficult-to-obtain lethal injection mix, the valium-like sedative midazolam, expires at the end of April.

It was used in executions in three U.S. states in 2014 that took longer than usual.

At this point, yes, in five of the executions: for Stacey Johnson and Ledell Lee, scheduled to die Thursday night; for Jack Jones and Marcel Williams, set for lethal injection April 24; and for Kenneth Williams, scheduled for execution April 27. But the judge was taken off the case by the state's Supreme Court and the temporary restraining order was thrown out.

He was sentenced to death two years later. The company has said prison officials misleadingly obtained the drug.

Federal judge Kristine G. Baker had ruled that the use of midazolam, a sedative, may violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishments.

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.

The state "intended to use this product in connection with executions, a fact that was never disclosed to McKesson", the company said in Tuesday's filing in state court in Little Rock.

The judge in question, Wendell Griffen, has since been removed from all cases involving the death penalty, under an order from the Arkansas Supreme Court, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. Protesters gather outside the state Capitol building on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark., to voice their opposition to Arkansas' seven upcoming executions.

Other reports by My Hot News

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