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Arkansas court maintains stay for condemned man

18 April, 2017, 01:49 | Author: Eddie Kim

The state still must overcome other court orders blocking the inmates' executions if it is to carry out any of the lethal injections it had scheduled for the last two weeks of April.

Arkansas had asked a USA appeals court earlier on Monday to allow the eight executions before the state's lethal-injection drugs expire at the end of April.

On Friday afternoon, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued an order staying Ward's execution without explanation. A spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge had no immediate comment on the latest stays, saying the office was still reviewing the court's order.

Arkansas set up a schedule to execute eight prisoners before its supply of the sedative midazolam expires at the end of the month. Rutledge said the state court's ruling was based "on a misinterpretation of federal law". The U.S. high court is set to hold oral arguments on April 24. At least six states have used the drug for executions since 2013, and less than 2 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its use as an execution drug. They include a post days before his ruling that criticized the execution push in Arkansas.

On the eve of what Arkansas officials hoped would be the state's first executions in more than a decade, they faced off with death-row inmates in multiple legal battles over whether these lethal injections would take place as scheduled. Baker found merit in inmates' arguments about full access to legal counsel during executions and to the potential for cruel and unusual punishment from use of the sedative midazolam.

On Friday, state Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order barring the state from administering one of three drugs it planned to use, vercuronium bromide.

If they aren't knocked out sufficiently, they would be able to feel the pain of their lungs and hearts stopping, they say. Griffen participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration after issuing the ruling Friday.

The court said it would reassign the judge's case and refer the incident to the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission "to consider whether he has violated the Code of Judicial Conduct". The judge says he's morally opposed to the death penalty, but that his beliefs shouldn't prevent him from taking up certain cases. Inmates have argued against the three-drug lethal-injection protocol Arkansas plans to use as well as specific elements of their cases and sentences. Some states have barred the use of the drug, and courts have reached different decisions on what inmates would have to do to suggest alternative means of execution.

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Davis was originally scheduled to be the first of two inmates facing execution Monday night.

A member of the United Methodist Church, Copley has been an outspoken critic of the death penalty and had attended a rally that day, in which the actor Johnny Depp joined hundreds at the Arkansas state Capitol calling on Hutchinson to halt the executions, when he learned about Griffen's ruling.

Ward's attorneys say he's a diagnosed schizophrenic with no rational understanding of his impending execution.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed emergency requests Saturday with the state Supreme Court and the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the orders as soon as possible.

This item has been corrected to reflect that the Arkansas Supreme Court did not issue a new order and has not addressed the state's request its stay for Bruce Earl Ward. Midazolam has been used in a number of high-profile botched executions, including instances where inmates did not appear to be fully sedated when they received the painful second and third drugs in the cocktail.

At the heart of the fight is an unprecedented flurry of executions that have pushed Arkansas to the forefront of the American death penalty at a time when states are increasingly retreating from the practice.

Pharmaceutical company McKesson Medical-Surgical claimed the Department of Corrections essentially duped them in acquiring the drug, stating that they sold the vecuronium bromide under the pretense that it would be used for health reasons - not an execution.

Arkansas is fighting on multiple legal fronts to begin a series of double-executions. Supporters have said it is effective, and the U.S. Supreme Court has authorized its use.

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