Arkansas to appeal state court's execution stays

Former Arkansas death row inmate Damien Echols talks with the media before speaking at a rally opposing Arkansas' upcoming executions, which are set to begin next week, on the front steps of the Capitol Friday, April 14, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark.

The seven men facing the death penalty are: Bruce Earl Ward, Don Williams Davis, Stacey Eugene Johnson, Jack Harold Jones, Marcel Willliams and Kenneth Williams. The judge last week prohibited the state from using a lethal injection drug a supplier said was misleadingly obtained.

Judge Baker said while the state demonstrated it does not plan to torture the inmates, they had a right to challenge the method of execution in an attempt to show it "creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain".

Davis is an inmate in the Arkansas Department of Correction; he was sentenced to death for the 1990 murder of Rogers resident Jane Daniel.

"This is an issue which would resonate in Ireland because in the previous year, we had the first ever presidential pardon for a person executed in this state".

On Friday, Arkansas Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen, an outspoken opponent of capital punishment, issued an order on Friday blocking the state from using vecuronium bromide after a petition from its maker, McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc.

State courts have also upheld secrecy laws in Arkansas, Georgia and Oklahoma, and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Arizona's drug secrecy in a 2014 case.

Arkansas' attorney general has also asked the state Supreme Court to reconsider the stay it granted one inmate over questions about his mental health.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday reversed a federal judge's decision granting a temporary injunction to eight inmates that Arkansas plans to execute this month.

Ward's attorneys have argued he is a diagnosed schizophrenic with no rational understanding of his impending execution. But even before the federal judge decision over the weekend, a state judge on Friday blocked the use of one of the drugs used in the three-drug lethal cocktail after a complaint from a drug distributor - though the company said Saturday it was withdrawing its complaint due to the federal order.

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It has been almost 12 years since Arkansas executed a prisoner, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson wants to kill eight in an 11-day stretch starting next week. The San Francisco-based firm said Baker's ruling removed the imminent danger of the drugs being used for executions.

The attorney general's office says it will respond to the filing after full arguments are put before the appeals court.

He wrote that Ward and Davis have had "decades of appeals" and that the victims' families deserved closure.

"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", Baker wrote.

But Baker's decision isn't the only legal roadblock that the state faces as it looks to execute its first inmate since 2005.

If court proceedings are pushed into May, Arkansas will not be able to carry out the executions with the drugs it has on hand.

The eighth Circuit could take up the appeal of Judge Baker's order at any time.

The state had set the expedited schedule because one of the drugs in its difficult-to-obtain lethal injection mix, the sedative midazolam, expires at the end of April.

Despite some legal setbacks, state officials had hopes earlier in the day that the executions still could begin at 7 p.m. CT.

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