Arkansas fights on multiple legal fronts to begin executions
Inmates argued that the use of the sedative midazolam risked inflicting severe pain on the inmates over concerns that the drug would not render inmates unconscious before the second and third drugs, a paralytic and the heart-stopping potassium chloride, are administered.
The Arkansas Department of Correction is still planning as if at least one execution will happen.
Arkansas had scheduled the executions to occur before the state's supply of midazolam expires at the end of April.
Several states have been barred by federal courts from injecting the chemical compound, including MS and OH, though the Supreme Court Justices upheld the right to use the drug in a 2015 case in a 5-4 decision.
Lawyers for the state appealed Baker's ruling immediately with the hope of beginning the executions Monday.
With its new secrecy law, approved in 2015, Arkansas will be able to resume executions, which had been blocked since 2005 by legal obstacles and drug shortages.
Justices in a 4-3 decision granted stays Monday afternoon for Don Davis and Bruce Ward.
"Certainly up to the judges and up to the Arkansas Supreme Court when they will hand down their decisions", Rutledge said, "but we anticipate that it will be soon and we continue to move forward with the plans and to carry out and to be successful in litigation as it arises".
Arkansas' attorney general has also asked the state Supreme Court to reconsider the stay it granted one inmate over questions about his mental health.
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The judge also faulted the state's policy of not letting lawyers have access to the inmates at the time of their deaths and said the inmates could raise challenges about the drugs to be used.
The inmates asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to take its time reviewing transcripts and rulings, rather than complete their work in two days as the state has asked. Griffen participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration after issuing the ruling Friday. Baker, they said, had heard from 17 witnesses and a case that included 1,300 pages of transcripts and 90 exhibits of more than 2,000 pages of documents before she came to a decision.
On Saturday, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction requested by the inmates to block the executions, ruling that there is a significant possibility that the men could successfully challenge the state's execution protocol.
"Appellees have had multiple opportunities to challenge their convictions, sentences, and - critically - their method of execution", Rutledge said in a court brief. In response, state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said all the issues being raised previously had been dealt with and claimed it was a stalling tactic.
On Friday, the Arkansas Supreme Court halted Ward's execution after lawyers for the inmate argued he was mentally incompetent. He had been scheduled to die Monday night under the state's plan to put eight inmates to death before the end of the month.
The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission confirmed Monday an investigation of Griffen is pending following the state Supreme Court referral.
"The people of the United States have spoken out against this horrific conveyer belt of death and we are relieved that the judge has temporarily stopped these executions".
John C. Williams, Assistant Federal Public Defender and attorney for some of the death row prisoners stated: "The unnecessarily compressed execution schedule using the risky drug midazolam denies prisoners their right to be free from the risk of torture".
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