Arkansas attorney general, governor vows
to pursue executions
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[April 18, 2017]
By Steve Barnes
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) - 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.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she will continue to seek justice
for the families of victims and pursue two executions scheduled for
Thursday, a pair set for April 24 and one planned for April 27.
"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."
Rutledge's statement came moments after the U.S. 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.
The legal fight in Arkansas, which last put someone to death 12 years
ago, came after the number of U.S. executions fell to a quarter-century
low in 2016. Capital punishment in several states was stymied by
problems with lethal-injection drugs and legal questions over their
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 Governor Asa Hutchinson in a
In a separate ruling on Monday, the 8th U.S. 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.
[to top of second column]
Inmates Bruce Ward(top
row L to R), Don Davis, Ledell Lee, Stacy Johnson, Jack Jones
(bottom row L to R), Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams and Jason
Mcgehee are shown in these booking photo provided March 21, 2017.
Courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS
On April 6, U.S. 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 on April 27.
Critics have contended that Arkansas' rush to the death chamber was
reckless. The state has 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 April.
Attorneys for the eight were likely to appeal the federal appeals
court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. They filed a separate
petition for stays on Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court over a
The state also argued that U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker abused
her discretion on Saturday when she ruled about potential harm from
The drug has been used in flawed executions in Oklahoma and Arizona.
Critics contend it does not put a person in a deep enough state of
unconsciousness and should not be used in executions.
In 2014, Oklahoma was the last state to try carrying out two
executions on the same night, an effort that went awry. Texas
conducted the last successful dual executions in the United States
(Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee Editing by
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