Wed, Apr 19, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Arkansas vows to pursue executions this week and next

Reuters, LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas

Arkansas’ attorney general and governor are vowing to pursue a series of executions scheduled over the next two weeks even after the state’s Supreme Court halted the first two lethal injections hours before they were to take place.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she will continue to seek justice for the families of victims and pursue two executions scheduled for tomorrow, a pair set for Monday next week and one planned for Thursday next week.

“I will continue to respond to any and all legal challenges brought by the prisoners,” she said in a statement late on Monday.

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

Rutledge’s statement came moments after the US Supreme Court denied her request to vacate a stay issued by the Arkansas Supreme Court on the execution that was scheduled on Monday for Don Davis, sentenced to die for the 1990 slaying of Jane Daniel, 62, during a home burglary.

“It is heartbreaking that the family of Jane Daniel has once again seen justice delayed,” Rutledge said in a statement.

The legal fight in Arkansas, which previously put someone to death 12 years ago, came after the number of US executions fell to a quarter-century low last year. Capital punishment in several states was stymied by problems with lethal-injection drugs and legal questions over their protocols.

Davis and fellow inmate Bruce Ward, both of whom have spent more than 20 years on death row, were scheduled to die on Monday night before the Arkansas Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, stayed the executions after their lawyers raised questions about their mental competency.

Rutledge’s office declined to challenge the stay ordered for Ward.

“While this has been an exhausting day for all involved, tomorrow we will continue to fight back on last-minute appeals and efforts to block justice for the victims’ families,” said Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said in a statement.

In a separate ruling on Monday, the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals in St Louis overruled a lower-court decision that had blocked the state’s original plan to put eight inmates to death.

On April 6, US District Judge J.P. Marshall halted one of the executions, saying the expedited schedule did not allow proper time for considering clemency for inmate Jason McGehee, who is one of the inmates set to die next week.

The state said it had to act quickly, because one of the drugs in its difficult-to-obtain lethal injection mix, the valium-like sedative midazolam, expires at the end of this month.

Attorneys for the eight were likely to appeal the federal appeals court ruling to the US Supreme Court. They filed a separate petition for stays on Monday with the US Supreme Court over a procedural matter.

The state also argued that US District Judge Kristine Baker on Saturday abused her discretion when she ruled about potential harm from midazolam.

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