Inmate slated to die Thursday due at hearing

Cheryl Sanders
April 19, 2017

VARNER, Ark. (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court spared the life of an Arkansas inmate minutes before his death warrant was set to expire Monday, scuttling efforts to resume capital punishment after almost 12 years in a state with an aggressive plan to carry out four double executions before its supply of a lethal injection drug expires.

While Bruce Ward has one other stay in place, Don Davis - who had his last meal - could be the first executed over the next 10 days if Attorney General Leslie Rutledge prevails with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state was rushing to get approval to execute convicted killer Don Davis before his death warrant expires at midnight.

The Arkansas Department of Corrections had, nevertheless, prepared for Davis' execution Monday night while lawyers for the state asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the death sentences to be carried out.

Amnesty International called on Arkansas to urgently halt 'the conveyor belt of death which it is about to set in motion'.

The state's Supreme Court also vacated an order blocking the use of the drug vecuronium bromide as part of a lethal-injection protocol.

In their response to Rutledge's filing Monday night, attorneys for the two inmates argued the U.S. Supreme Court could not hear her appeal because there was no final decision for the high court to review.

The families have waited far too long to see justice, and I will continue to make that a priority.

Arkansas had set the schedule because its supply of a lethal injection drug, midazolam, expires on May 1.

The state and federal judges' rulings are both under appeal by the state.

The state's effort to carry out the executions hit a legal setback Monday as the Arkansas Supreme Court put two executions on hold and the US Supreme Court refused to intervene in its favor.

Judd Deere, a spokesman for Rutledge, said she decided not to appeal the stay halting the other execution, which the Arkansas Supreme Court also stayed last week, because the state rejected her appeal fighting that first stay and then handed down a second one.

Attorneys for the eight were likely to appeal the federal appeals court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. They've argued that Ward has a lifelong history of severe mental illness and that Davis has an IQ in the range of intellectual disability.

Davis is on death row for the 1990 shooting death of Jane Daniel.

Arkansas hasn't executed anybody for more than a decade, partly because of a series of legal challenges to the state's death penalty laws.

That cleared the way for Arkansas to proceed with executions of the six remaining inmates, scheduled for April 24 and April 27.

The Arkansas Supreme Court is barring a judge from future death penalty cases for participating in an anti-death penalty protest where he appeared to mimic an inmate strapped to a gurney.

"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.

Arguments in that case before the high court are set for Monday, and a decision would come by the end of June. But even before the federal judge decision over the weekend, a state judge on Friday blocked the use of one of the drugs used in the three-drug lethal cocktail after a complaint from a drug distributor - though the company said Saturday it was withdrawing its complaint due to the federal order. Despite the secrecy measure, prison officials have said it will be very hard to find a supplier willing to sell Arkansas midazolam after its current stock expires.

DeMillo reported from Little Rock.

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