Arkansas vows to keep pushing for executions despite setback

Death chamber gurney at the Huntsville prison in Texas

By the time the court reached a decision Monday night, Davis had already received his last meal and the execution team was ready. The earlier stay was granted after Ward's lawyers sought an evaluation of whether he is mentally capable of understanding his punishment.

Two other Arkansas inmates - Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson - are scheduled to die Thursday.

An Arkansas inmate set to die by lethal injection Monday remains alive after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against lifting a stay of execution.

The US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit on Monday reversed a federal judge's broader stay on the executions, clearing the path for deaths scheduled to take place later this month to proceed.

Associate Justice Shawn Womack, writing in dissent, said Davis and Ward "had their day in court" and that the families are "entitled to closure and finality of the law".

In a statement, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson expressed his "frustration in the continued delayed justice".

Justices declined an appeal from the state's attorney general to lift a stay barring the execution of Don Davis, who was slated to be the first of several inmates to die this month.

Before the executions were halted, Bishop Dewane had contrasted the practice with the message of the Easter Triduum, the holiest time of the Church's liturgical calendar.

"Both Mr. Ward and Mr. Davis were denied independent mental health experts to help their defense attorneys investigate, understand, and present these critical mental health issues to the jury", Assistant Federal Defender Scott Braden said in a statement.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker had said Saturday that Arkansas' execution protocol doesn't outline what would happen if the inmate were to remain conscious even if given a double dose. The justices are set to hold oral arguments on April 24.

His previous "last meal" came in 2010 before the state Supreme Court stopped his execution.

But a federal appeals court panel on Monday dissolved a stay from a federal judge who'd halted upcoming executions over concerns about midazolam, one of the three lethal injection drugs that Arkansas wants to use. The issue in that case is about one of the drugs scheduled to be used in the lethal injections.

Griffen did not immediately return a message Monday seeking his reaction to the high court's order.

The state is determined these executions be carried out, but those who have campaigned against the methods of execution will do all they can to block them. The state scheduled such a compressed schedule because of the expiration of its supply of midazolam.

Fresenius Kabi USA, a subsidiary of the German company Fresenius Kabi, said last week that it appeared to have manufactured the potassium chloride the state plans to use. They have each spent more than 20 years on death row.

The judge in question, Wendell Griffen, has since been removed from all cases involving the death penalty, under an order from the Arkansas Supreme Court, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

Midazolam's effectiveness in executions has been disputed since its first use in 2013. The suit argued there was an unacceptably high risk they would suffer during the executions. Other courts blocked two of the executions over separate issues of competency and clemency.

The court battles are playing out on multiple fronts as the state's supply of midazolam expires on April 30. In at least four different cases, death-row inmates have woken up after being administered the drug.

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