Circuit Court of Appeals Grants Motion to Vacate Stays of Execution
The state has filed appeals, and the issues could reach the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, Arkansas Onlinereports.
The inmates' attorneys say they were denied access to independent mental health experts.
But that isn't the only legal roadblock that the state faces as it looks to execute its first inmate since 2005.
The state still must overcome other court orders blocking the inmates' executions if it is to carry out any of the lethal injections it had scheduled for the last two weeks of April.
The judge determined that their concerns were sufficient to halt the executions for the time being, to allow the issue to be considered by the courts.
Judge Wendell Griffen portrays a prisoner on a gurney during a protest against executions in front of the governor's mansion in Little Rock, Ark. on April 14, 2017.
The motion argues that a previous ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker to stay the executions should be "immediately reversed". At least six states have used the drug for executions since 2013, and less than 2 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its use as an execution drug. Supporters have said it is effective, and the U.S. Supreme Court has authorized its use. The U.S. Supreme Court could be asked to tackle a number of questions before the end of the day and, depending on those answers, Ward could walk to the death chamber at Varner for a 7 p.m. execution.
"I understand how hard this is on the victims' families, and my heart goes out to them as they once again deal with the continued court review; however, the last minute court reviews are all part of the hard process of death penalty cases", he said in a statement Saturday.
A spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge had no immediate comment on the court's ruling.
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Arkansas' supply of one key execution drug expires April 30.
The state has not said whether it will appeal a federal judge's decision to grant a stay to another inmate, Jason McGehee, who had won a clemency recommendation from the state Parole Board.
He was previously scheduled to die tonight, along with Death Row Inmate Don Davis.
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Griffen, 64, is a Baptist minister who was first elected as Pulaski County judge in 2010. The lawyers contend that the cocktail of drugs that the state plans to use will cause "unconstitutional pain, suffering and torture" if the midazolam does not work as planned.
The court also referred Griffen to the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission to consider whether or not he violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.
At the demonstration, Griffen was strapped to a cot.
"Reject the state's request for a rushed analysis of this complex record", they wrote.
Ward was convicted of killing a convenience store clerk.
A separate federal court ruling has halted all of the executions.
Ward's attorneys have argued he is a diagnosed schizophrenic with no rational understanding of his impending execution.
This item has been corrected to reflect that the Arkansas Supreme Court did not issue a new order and has not addressed the state's request its stay for Bruce Earl Ward.
The inmates' lawyers called on the state to drop its rush to use the midazolam before it expires. "The threat of irreparable harm to the plaintiffs is significant: If midazolam does not adequately anesthetize plaintiffs, or if their executions are 'botched, ' they will suffer severe pain before they die", Judge Baker wrote.
State officials say their timetable is necessary and that the inmates have used up their appeals and are trying to use the courts to dodge lawful sentences.
"Arkansas says it can not find a new drug supply if the executions are delayed". Arkansas hasn't carried out a double execution since 1999. A federal judge issued stays for each of the inmates Saturday and a state court judge on Friday blocked prison officials from using a paralyzing drug until he could determine whether Arkansas obtained it properly.
Arkansas solicitor general Lee Rudofsky countered by telling the 8th Circuit that the inmates are simply trying to run out the clock - "blatantly attempting to manipulate the judicial system and shield themselves from justice".
Arkansas says it can not find a new drug supply if the executions are delayed.
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