Monday, April 17, 2017


Arkansas' frantic court scramble to execute the first of eight death row prisoners it plans to kill in just 11 days before lethal injection drug expires - including two who were scheduled to die tonight

By Jennifer Smith

Daily Mail
April 17, 2017

Arkansas officials are scrambling to execute the first of eight death row prisoners it plans to kill in 11 days before its lethal injection drug expires.

The state is fighting off several legal attempts from lawyers representing the inmates to get the first of the executions underway on Monday night.

The eight condemned prisoners were thrown a lifeline by a federal judge on Saturday who granted them temporary stays in a sudden roadblock for the state's 'conveyor belt of death' plan.

The decision means murderers Bruce Earl Ward and Don Davis Jr., who were both due to be executed on Monday in the first double execution, may see out the day alive unless three separate judges at the Supreme Court and the 8th District Court of Appeals side with the state before 7pm on Monday.

As it stands, the executions are on hold. Ward is at the Varner Unit, where he had been due to be executed, and Davis is in a cell near the execution chamber at the Cummins Unit, a Department for Corrections spokesman said.

Both men are protected by a temporary stay granted for all of the prisoners by US District Judge Kristine Baker on Saturday. She accepted the inmates' concerns about the lethal injection and its ingredients.

They voiced fears about the drug midazolam, a pain killer which is meant to render them unconscious but which has failed to knock recipients out in previous executions across the country.

Midazolam is the element which expires at the month. Two other chemicals are used in the injection - vecuronium bromide, a paralytic ,and potassium chloride which stops the heart.

Their executions are also halted by a separate legal decision made on Friday.

That case focuses on the use of vecuronium bromide, another of the injection's ingredients, and was launched by the pharmaceutical company which sold it to the state.

The company complained that it sold the drug to Arkansas to be used for medical purposes and not for capital punishment.

Their objection to it being used in executions echoes wider trend in the pharmaceutical industries which has seen drug manufacturers step away from supplying states with the ingredients for lethal injections.

Ward, 60, was also granted a previous stay by a different judge on Friday after his lawyers argued he was not mentally fit to receive the injection.

Arkansas is fighting all of the decisions at the Supreme Court and at the 8th District Court of Appeals. If successful in time, the two men may still be executed on Monday night as may Ward.

The Attorney General's office would not comment on whether it was optimistic about its legal efforts on Monday.

These men have been sentenced to death and that's what the attorney general is working towards,' a spokesman told

Ward and Davis's executions are the first two of eight executions scheduled in Arkansas before the end of April when the state's supply of lethal injections expires. With a growing shortage of the drug across the country, the state is trying to make use of its only remaining supply before it reaches its use-by date.

The hurried executions will be the first in the state for ten years and have sparked controversy across the country. Protesters on each side of the debate gathered in Little Rock over the weekend.

Johnny Depp joined those fighting the state's execution schedule at one demonstration.

Former executioners have joined the inmates' fight, speaking out to accuse the state of playing 'Russian roulette' with the prisoners' lives by relying on the unreliable lethal injection cocktail.

Governor Hutchinson has justified the hurried schedule by directing his sympathies to the murderers' victims families.

'When I set the eight execution dates in accordance with the law and my responsibilities, I was fully aware that the actions would trigger both the individual clemency hearings and separate court reviews on varying claims by the death row inmates.

'I understand how difficult 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 difficult process of death penalty cases.

'I expect both the Supreme Court of Arkansas and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to review the decisions quickly, and I have confidence in the Attorney General and her team to expedite the reviews,' he said on Saturday.

Ward strangled 18-year-old Rebecca Doss in 1989 in the men's bathroom of a convenience store where she worked.

Davis, 54, murdered 64-year-old Jane Daniels by shooting her in the back of her head in her home during a robbery.

The other six men scheduled to be executed are Stacey Eugene Johnson, Jack Harold Jones, Ledell Lee, Kenneth D Williams and Marcel W Williams.

Jason McGehee was also due to be executed on April 27 but he was granted a permanent stay.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Midazolam might not render them unconscious, thereby subjecting them to a painful death. God forbid! What about the pain suffered by the murder victims? Oh, that doesn’t count.

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