Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
U.S. | By Eddie Scott

USA supreme court forces Arkansas to halt first in string of executions

USA supreme court forces Arkansas to halt first in string of executions

Two pharmaceutical companies filed a court brief last week asking a federal judge to block Arkansas from using their drugs, but the judge did not rule on that issue.

"After the darkness of Good Friday has come a great light", stated Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network, which works to end the death penalty.

One inmate, Jason McGehee, had already been granted a temporary stay last week after a parole board recommended clemency. Johnson, a black man, was sentenced for the 1993 murder of a white woman.

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.

Davis was convicted of the 1992 killing of Jane Daniel, and Ward of the 1989 killing of Rebecca Doss.

But Davis ultimately won a life-sparing reprieve on a matter that was entirely different: whether he should be executed while the U.S. Supreme Court hears a case about whether poor defendants with mental health problems are entitled to expert witnesses to assist them in preparing and presenting their cases.

The remaining inmates who are to be put to death before the end of the month are expected to appeal the 8th circuit's decision to the Supreme Court as well.

Three Arkansas justices dissented, with Associate Justice Shawn Womack writing Ward and Davis "had their day in court, the jury spoke and decades of appeals have occurred".

About 20 minutes before the execution warrant for Davis expired, the US Supreme Court denied Attorney General Rutledge's request to vacate the stay.

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

The court voted 4-3 to stay the executions of Don Davis and Bruce Ward.

Arkansas had set the schedule because its supply of a lethal injection drug, midazolam, expires on May 1. The drug has been linked to horrifically botched executions in Arizona, Alabama, and Oklahoma. McKesson cited a testimony from Rory Griffin, ADC Deputy Director, in which he said ADC "undertook these actions" knowing that the manufacturer of the drug doesn't permit it to be used in executions. The supplier said it refunded the state, which never returned the drug.

Griffen scheduled a hearing for Tuesday morning, then joined anti-death penalty protesters outside the governor's mansion and tied himself to a cot as though he were an inmate on a death chamber gurney.

No single USA state has held eight executions in 10 days since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Separate from the inmates' legal challenges, a handful of drug companies are saying they don't want their products used in the executions. If taken to the Supreme Court, the justices would likely need to give a more defining answer about midazolam.

"I am disappointed in this delay for the victim's family", Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement.

McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. on Tuesday filed a complaint in Pulaski County Circuit Court seeking a temporary restraining order or injunction "to prevent the use of our product for something other than a legitimate medical objective", it said in a statement. The U.S. high court is set to hold oral arguments on the request April 24.

Bishop Taylor and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, the chair of the USA bishops' domestic justice and human development committee, both spoke out against the planned executions. ". (D) elaying Appellees' executions by even a few days - until Arkansas's supply of midazolam expires - will make it impossible for Arkansas to carry out Appellees' just and lawful sentences".

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