Catholics Heartened by Stay on Arkansas Executions

Posted April 20, 2017

Two prisoners on death row for murder in the USA have escaped execution following a last-minute decision by a state Supreme Court. Both inmates wanted stays 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.

"The canceled execution of a prisoner was a setback for the state, which intended carry out all executions before its stock of lethal injection drugs expired".

After the US Supreme Court declined to reverse the stay on Davis' execution, Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, stated: "I am disappointed in this delay for the victim's family".

Arkansas officials vowed to carry out a double execution later this week after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a setback to the state's plan to resume capital punishment for the first time in almost 12 years by refusing to lift an order sparing an inmate just minutes before his death warrant expired.

The court, in a brief ruling with no explanation, said it would not lift the Arkansas Supreme Court's order to stop the executions of two inmates who were to be put to death on Monday night, NBC News reported.

Those decisions mean that five of the original eight executions may go forward.

Davis had already been served a last meal of fried chicken, rolls, beans, mashed potatoes and strawberry cake, and witnesses were being moved toward the execution chamber when the Supreme Court ruled just minutes before his death warrant expired at midnight.

Arkansas has since run into multiple obstacles in carrying out the executions. The governor is monitoring the courts and plans to visit with the attorney general and Arkansas Department of Correction leaders to discuss any next steps.

Arkansas' supply of one of those drugs, Midazolam, expires at the end of the month.

"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", he said in a statement.

A spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge had no comment on the court filing.

A medical supply company is suing again to try and prevent Arkansas from using a lethal injection drug in the upcoming executions of two convicted killers, saying it was sold to be used for medical purposes.

In her order, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker flagged two issues: the use of the midazolam and inmates' access to their attorneys on the days of their executions. They also want the court to schedule oral arguments. The executions of Stacey Johnson and Ledell Lee are scheduled for April 20, but their attorneys are working to halt those as well.

At the center of the legal battle was a series of lethal injections that would have marked the most inmates put to death by any state in such a short period of time since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

Lawyers for the two men have asked Arkansas courts to halt the executions for DNA testing they say could prove their clients' innocence and to consider judicial shortcomings, including a previous trial lawyer for Lee who came to court drunk, was removed from the hearing and ordered to undergo a drug test.

The Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas, planned a novena from April 9 to April 17 for those set to be executed and for clemency to be granted in their cases.