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Arkansas inmates try variety of arguments to avoid death

21 April, 2017, 22:57 | Author: Eddie Kim
  • Arkansas fights on multiple legal fronts to begin executions

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.

But amid public opposition to the death penalty, including protests in the state capital Little Rock including actor Johnny Depp and a judge linked to one of the cases, lawyers obtained stays for three of the executions.

There are still five Arkansas executions scheduled before the end of April; a state parole board voted to recommend one of the original eight death row inmates, Jason McGehee, for clemency.

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.

The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission confirmed Monday an investigation of Griffen is pending following the state Supreme Court referral.

After the US Supreme Court and the Arkansas Supreme Court delivered the stays, Arkansas authorities vowed to push on with their state's first executions since 2005. That case, McWilliams v. Dunn, is scheduled for oral arguments on April 24.

Arkansas appealed the stay on Davis, but did not pursue Ward's case.

"They clearly demonstrated that mental health issues would be significant factors at their trials", said public defender Scott Braden.

Arkansas' next executions are scheduled to be held the evening of April 20.

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The judge says he's morally opposed to the death penalty, but that his beliefs shouldn't prevent him from taking up certain cases. If they aren't knocked out sufficiently, they would be able to feel the pain of their lungs and hearts stopping, they say.


"While this has been an exhausting day for all involved, tomorrow we will continue to fight back on last-minute appeals and efforts to block justice for the victims' families", Hutchinson said. In a victory for the state Sunday, a federal judge in western Arkansas denied a stay request by Davis.

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 decision not to override the Arkansas Supreme Court's stay of Don Davis' execution comes as the state desperately tries to move forward with its attempt to execute eight people in ten days, before its cache of execution drugs expires on May 1. Many pharmaceutical companies, particularly in Europe, ban their use for executions.

Arkansas said it would go ahead with its plans to execute the remaining six inmates, before its supply of midazolam expires at the end of April.

The justices' action represented a setback, but not a final blow, for Arkansas officials as they race the clock to execute convicted murderers before the state's supply of a controversial sedative used for executions passes its expiration date. This combination of undated photos provided by the Arkansas Department of Correction shows death-row inmates Stacey E. Johnson, left, and Ledell Lee.

A major US pharmaceutical firm sued Arkansas again over capital punishment on Tuesday, claiming prison officials fraudulently obtained a muscle relaxant to administer in several executions and demanding the drug in question be confiscated from the state.

Arkansas' capital punishment push came as the number of USA executions fell to a quarter-century low in 2016.

McKesson said the Arkansas Department of Corrections "purchased the products on an account that was opened under the valid medical license of an Arkansas physician, implicitly representing that the products would only be used for a legitimate medical goal". The state's highest court granted a stay on Monday afternoon.

Griffen said he wouldn't consider a person's participation in an anti-execution event enough, on its own, to warrant disqualifying a juror from a death penalty case. The inmates say midazolam is unsuitable as an execution drug, saying it is not a pain-killer and could subject them to a cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

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