Monday, 26 June, 2017

Arkansas vows to keep pushing for executions despite setback

Crowds gather at a rally opposing Arkansas upcoming executions which are set to begin next week on the front steps of the Capitol Friday Arkansas execution drugs intended for surgery, heart issues
Craig Ferguson | 20 April, 2017, 09:46

Don Davis was set to die Monday night by lethal injection.

Arkansas' Supreme Court halted two executions hours before they were scheduled to take place Monday, but will move forward with others.

An Arkansas inmate scheduled to die Thursday night is asking the state's Supreme Court to block his execution so he can pursue additional DNA testing to prove his claims of innocence.

That US District Court judge had ruled that the prisoners will likely succeed in demonstrating the state's proposed method of lethal injection is unconstitutional.

The European Union on Wednesday urged Hutchinson to commute the death-row inmates' sentences. Capital punishment in several states was stymied by problems with lethal-injection drugs and legal questions over their protocols. Monday was the first day the Supreme Court was in session with Justice Neil Gorsuch on the bench.

Mckesson has said it will continue its "efforts to facilitate the return of our product and ensure that it is used in line with our supplier agreement". Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, no state has executed so many men in such a short time, said Robert Dunham from the Death Penalty Information Center.

In a statement, assistant federal defender Scott Braden praised the ruling.

The lawyers for those two prisoners said their clients suffered serious psychological problems but that their defense attorneys had presented no mental health experts during their trials that results in the death penalty. "Mr. Davis has organic brain damage, intellectual disability, a history of head injuries, fetal alcohol syndrome, and other severe mental health conditions".

The 8th Circuit ruling on Monday could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices are set to hold oral arguments on April 24.

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Then, last Friday, Arkansas' Supreme Court suspended - with no explanation - the execution of prisoner Bruce Ward planned for Monday.

One inmate, Jason McGehee, had already been granted a temporary stay last week after a parole board recommended clemency.

Who is Arkansas still scheduled to execute?

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. That order had effectively blocked the executions of eight inmates by the end of April.

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

Arkansas has since run into multiple obstacles in carrying out the executions. The state's attorneys are fighting to persuade judges to allow the executions - and to make the decision quickly.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, initially scheduled eight executions in 11 days because one of the state's lethal injection drugs - the sedative midazolam - was expiring at the end of the month.

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

McKesson alleges that it filled the state's order for the drug under the notion that ADC would use it for "legitimate medical objective, consistent with Arkansas State Medical Board Regulations", which state in part that licensed physicians can not administer unsafe or controlled drugs to someone for a reason other than a legitimate medical goal. The drug is used as an anesthesia.

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