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Despite Rulings, Arkansas Governor And AG Vow To Pursue Executions

21 April 2017

The attorney for Davis and Ward requested stays of execution until the US Supreme Court rules on an upcoming case concerning inmate access to independent mental health experts. (BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM.) In a separate order on Monday, the Arkansas justices forbade a circuit court judge in Pulaski County, Wendell Griffen, from hearing cases related to capital punishment after he participated in a protest against the death penalty last week.

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.

After the State Supreme Court lifted the judge's ruling that blocked the executions because it prohibited Arkansas from using its supply of vecuronium bromide, another o lethal injection drug.

Earlier, the state high court's 4-3 decision was a response to a plea for the state to avoid executing Davis until the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in a pending case. "The families have waited far too long to see justice, and I will continue to make that a priority". The two are among eight Arkansas inmates facing possible execution this month amid a flurry of legal actions involving all eight cases.

Don Davis was set to die Monday night.

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A spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge had no comment on the court filing.

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.

Arkansas and other states with the death penalty are being hit by the declining availability of lethal drugs in recent years.

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.

"Mr. Ward and Mr. Davis were denied access to independent mental health experts, even though they clearly demonstrated that mental health issues would be significant factors at their trials", he said.

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The Supreme Court's decision marks the second reprieve for Don Davis, who was just hours from death in 2010 when his life was spared, and caps a day of debate in state and federal courts to give Arkansas the go-ahead to carry out its first executions since 2005. The eight men are scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Arkansas. States around the country have struggled to obtain execution drugs over the last few years because of drug shortages and pressure from anti-death penalty groups, and the governor said he was unsure whether the state could refresh its supply. Protesters gather outside the state Capitol building on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark., to voice their opposition to Arkansas' seven upcoming executions. The justices are set to hold oral arguments on April 24. The U.S. Supreme Court then opted not to lift the stay for Davis.

Lee, who is also black, was sentenced to death in 1993 for the murder of his neighbor, a white woman. The suit argued there was an unacceptably high risk they would suffer during the executions.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has allowed several executions scheduled over the next ten days in Arkansas to proceed. Arkansas has repeatedly conducted double executions, and in 2015, a poll commissioned by the University of Arkansas showed overwhelming support for capital punishment here.

Lee has also asked a federal judge to stay his execution.

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