Arkansas judge barred from execution cases after protest

The judge, Wendell Griffen, had placed an injunction on all the pending executions after McKesson, a major medical supplier, sued the state for misleading it over the acquisition of one of the lethal injection drugs.

(Sherry Simon via AP). The federal high court will hold oral arguments in that case April 24, putting another legal roadblock in place in Arkansas' plan to conduct eight executions before the end of April.

(AP Photo/Kelly P. Kissel).

Marc Hyden, the national advocacy coordinator for Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty, an anti-death penalty group, also stressed the risk Arkansas' planned execution spree posed to corrections officers.

Also on Tuesday, the state meant to execute Bruce Ward, 60, who was sentenced to death in October 1990 after being convicted of killing Rebecca Doss, an 18-year-old convenience store clerk.

The scheduled executions of two Arkansas death row inmates were halted after that state's Supreme Court granted stays Monday afternoon, effectively delaying the state's plan to execute the men by lethal injection before supplies of a key drug expire.

State and federal court rulings have stayed executions for two other inmates, and the state has yet to appeal those decisions.

The decisions from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court were over the series of planned lethal injections that, if carried out, would mark the most inmates put to death by a state in such a short period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The first prisoner scheduled to die was Ward, who was convicted in 1990 of murdering an 18-year-old shop assistant named Rebecca Doss.

The high court's order sparing Davis offered no explanation, but none of the justices voted in favor of lifting the stay.

Two of the condemned men have obtained temporary reprieves, leaving six executions scheduled between April 17-27.

Arkansas enacted a law two years ago keeping secret the source of its lethal injection drugs, a move officials said was necessary to find new supplies. The federal court overturned one U.S. District Judge's decision to halt the executions due the use of a contentious lethal injection drug.

Justices from the state's top court on Monday reassigned the cases from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen. Strict distribution controls imposed by more than 30 drug companies in the U.S. and overseas have made it very hard for death penalty states to lay their hands on medicines for use in the death chamber.

"Reject the state's request for a rushed analysis of this complex record", the inmates' lawyers wrote.

Writing in a dissent, Associate Justice Shawn Womack lamented the court's ruling. But Arkansas's attorney general requested that the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the ruling so that Davis's execution could be carried out.

Attorneys for the eight were likely to appeal the federal appeals court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a statement, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson expressed his "frustration in the continued delayed justice". The woman was killed in her home after Davis broke in and shot her with a.44-caliber revolver he found there.

The US Supreme Court left in place a stay of execution for an Arkansas inmate, refusing to overrule the state supreme court.

The back-and-forth with the courts came as the state seeks to execute eight prisoners before its supply of the sedative midazolam expires at the end of the month.

The drug has been used in flawed executions in Oklahoma and Arizona.

"Mr. Ward and Mr. Davis were denied access to independent mental health experts, even though they clearly demonstrated that mental health issues would be significant factors at their trials", he said.

"These people have probably never executed anyone", Hyden noted, "and now you're asking for two executions a day".

The state of Arkansas appealed and has asked for a quick decision.

The state's highest court also referred Griffen to the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission to consider whether he violated the code of conduct for judges. At one demonstration, Griffen was strapped flat to a cot to simulate a death row inmate about to receive lethal injection.

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