Critics seek answers from Arkansas high court about execution rulings
Apr 20 2017 by Larry Hoffman
Anti-death penalty supporters Abraham Bonowitz, left, and Randy Gardner wait near their taped off "protest corral" outside the Varner Unit late Monday, April 17, 2017 near Varner, Ark. Polling has shown strong support for the death penalty in Arkansas. Anti-death penalty supporter Randy Gardner, right, embraces Abraham Bonowitz, left, after they read on his phone the 11:45 p.m., decision to halt the execution in their taped off "protest cor".
On Monday, Don Davis won a reprieve from the state's top court a few hours before his scheduled execution, then waited nearly until midnight to learn the Supreme Court would not allow the execution to proceed.
The court hasn't explained its reasoning in any of its one-page stay-of-execution orders for the three inmates.
The state Supreme Court on Monday lifted Griffen's order and prohibited the judge from considering any death penalty-related cases.
The ruling delivered a further setback for the state, which last carried out an execution a dozen years ago and contends it must act quickly because its supply of another of the three drugs used in the lethal mix expires at the end of April.
The execution of eight death row inmates would be the most by any US state in such a short period since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
"In its efforts to "enforce the law" Arkansas has ridden roughshod over private companies' legal agreements and the interests of Arkansas patients, and today's ruling shows this will not pass unchallenged".
One of the three dissenting judges issued a blistering criticism of Monday's ruling sparing the first two condemned inmates.
Arkansas's now six scheduled executions this month have been effectively stayed, again. Another ruling Wednesday could scuttle the entire schedule.
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Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray's decision Wednesday throws into doubt, at least momentarily, whether Arkansas will be able to conduct its scheduled executions tonight. The company said it would suffer harm financially and to its reputation if the executions were carried out.
Tim Jenkins of McKesson says Griffin never told him the drug would be used for executions. "It's a very big deal at McKesson to have our drugs associated with that".
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed responses with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit regarding inmates Lee and Johnson's requests to stay their respective executions.
The Arkansas Supreme Court halted a double execution the state planned Monday night, and justices on Wednesday blocked the lethal injection of another inmate scheduled to die Thursday night.
Johnson was set for execution Thursday night along with inmate Ledell Lee, who is also seeking a stay in a separate case.
"When I set the dates, I knew there could be delays in one or more of the cases, but I expected the courts to allow the juries' sentences to be carried out since each case had been reviewed multiple times by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed the guilt of each", Hutchinson said.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson originally scheduled eight executions to occur before the end of April, when one hard-to-acquire lethal injection drug expires. Attorneys for Bruce Ward and Don Davis, who had faced lethal injection Monday night, said the executions should be put off until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a pending case involving inmates' access to independent mental health experts.
Deere, the attorney general's spokesman, said the state was reviewing its options regarding Johnson's case.