A flurry of court rulings on Arkansas unprecedented attempt toexecute eight prisoners in an 11-day spanhas temporarily spared the lives of two prisoners, while leaving the lives of other condemned killers in limbo.
The Arkansas Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision on Monday, granted stays of execution for Bruce Ward and Don Davis. Both had been scheduled to die Monday, the first of what critics call the statesconveyor beltplan for multiple executions.
There will be no executions tonight. We are deeply grateful that the Arkansas Supreme Court has issued stays of execution for Bruce Ward and Don Davis, Scott Braden, assistant federal defender in Arkansas, said in an email statement.
State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she would immediately appeal.
Later, Rutledges office said she wouldnt appeal Wards stay at this time.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) criticized the state Supreme Court for sparing the two men.
Soon after the state Supreme Court ruling, a federal appeals court lifted stays for five of the condemned inmates that had been put in place on Saturday. That case challenges the states method of performing the executions. A stay for prisoner Jason McGehee was granted in a separate case on Friday.
In Mondays ruling, the U.S.Eight Circuit Court of Appeals said the five inmates had ample time already to file objections to the execution protocol, and only acted at the last minute. Judge Jane Kelly, in a dissent, argued the the case was about more than which drugs are used to put inmates to death, and questioned whether Arkansas was in line with the Eight Amendments evolving standards of decency.
The state is aggressively moving to thin its death row before its supply of midazolam a controversial sedative in the lethal-injection cocktail expires in April. Hutchinson has said hes unsure where the state can get more.
Despite the federal appeals ruling, a state court ruling remains in place that blocks the state Department of Corrections from using pancuronium bromide a second drug in the lethal three-drug mixture.
The state temporary restraining order was granted Friday by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who has since become controversial for attending a death penalty protest hours after his ruling.
Drugmaker McKesson Medical-Surgical sought the order to prevent the state from using the drug after learning the corrections department had obtained it for executions, which the company doesnt permit. A day after winning the restraining order, the company filed to withdraw its petition, saying the federal ruling that stayed the executions made the state court orderunnecessary.
Griffen drew criticism from Republican lawmakers for taking part in Fridays protest. Griffen faces potential disciplinary action and was removed from all death penalty-related criminal and civil cases in Pulaski County.