US Supreme Court spares Arkansas inmate from execution

Monday was the first day the Supreme Court was in session with Justice Neil Gorsuch on the bench.

Inmates (top row L to R): Bruce Ward, Don Davis, Ledell Lee, Stacy Johnson, Jack Jones; (bottom row L to R), Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams and Jason Mcgehee. It's the second time that Davis has come within hours of being executed before courts intervened.

In the end the state Supreme Court voted 4 to 3 to grant stays for both Davis and Ward.

"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.

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. Two inmates are set to be put to death on Thursday.

All eight inmates have requested stays from the U.S. Supreme Court until the high court rules on whether to weigh in on the state decision to uphold the injection law in Arkansas.

The state and death-row inmates engaged in legal battles over whether or not the executions would take place in that 11-day window.

The legal roadblock constitutes yet another setback for Arkansas's Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, who had pushed for the accelerated executions as the expiration of the state's supply of midazolam drew near.

A federal appeals court late Monday overturned a federal judge's decision over the weekend to temporarily stay the executions.

Both inmates' lawyers claim that their clients are too mentally impaired to face capital punishment and were not offered proper mental health screening.

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

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The men are claimed to have mental health problems, and the United States Supreme Court is due to hear oral arguments next week in a case involving a defendant's right to access independent mental health experts during their tiral.

In its lawsuit, McKesson Medical-Surgical, a unit of McKesson Corp, said the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) acted deceitfully when it purchased another drug, vecuronium bromide, a commonly used muscle relaxant given in extreme doses in executions to paralyze the body and halt breathing.

There are also two executions scheduled for April 24 and one scheduled for April 27.

But the state high court's ruling halting the executions remains in effect.

Later, in 1994, Arkansas was the site of the nation's first triple execution in 32 years.

The executions were set for this month because Arkansas' supply of midazolam expires on May 1.

Two of the executions had been stayed individually before all eight of them were blocked by a state judge and a federal judge. The drug has been linked to horrifically botched executions in Arizona, Alabama, and Oklahoma. The supplier said it refunded the state, which never returned the drug.

That decision "stirred a wave of consternation and threats on social media from state lawmakers and conservatives", member station KUAR noted on Saturday - because shortly before the decision, the judge was photographed protesting the death penalty at the gates of the Governor's Mansion.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge says there are five scheduled executions remaining and no legal obstacles to carrying them out, although she expects lawyers for the inmates to file fresh court challenges.

The eighth circuit appeals court rejected Baker's determination that the executions should be delayed to give courts time to consider whether the use of midazolam is a breach of the Eighth Amendment.

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