Arkansas prepping for lethal injections despite halt from courts

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge did not say where she would seek a review, but she could ask either the Arkansas Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court for one.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted the executions of two men originally scheduled to be put to death Monday night, putting another legal roadblock in place in Arkansas' plan to conduct eight executions before the end of April.

Arkansas' supply of one key execution drug expires April 30.

The inmates' attorneys say they were denied access to independent mental health experts.

Midazolam has a controversial history, having been linked to a number of botched executions where an inmate, improperly sedated to the effects of the other drugs in their lethal injection, took almost an hour to die.

"The people of the United States have spoken out against this horrific conveyer belt of death and we are relieved that the judge has temporarily stopped these executions".

Meanwhile, the Arkansas Supreme Court also barred a state judge who blocked the multiple execution plan from taking up any death penalty related cases after he participated in a protest where he appeared to mimic a death row inmate about to receive a lethal injection. Griffen participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration after issuing the ruling Friday. The high court asked a disciplinary panel to consider whether Griffen violated the code of conduct for judges.

Another federal judge and the state Supreme Court had already granted stays to two of the eight inmates, reducing the number of planned executions to six within an 11-day period.

"The unnecessarily compressed execution schedule using the risky drug midazolam denies prisoners their right to be free from the risk of torture", lawyer John C. Williams said.

This item has been corrected to reflect that the Arkansas Supreme Court did not issue a new order and has not addressed the state's request its stay for Bruce Earl Ward.

"The court is mindful of the fact that the state of Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005, despite consistent support for capital punishment for Arkansawyers and their elected representatives", Baker wrote.

Ward was scheduled to be the first inmate killed on Monday. Ward's attorneys have argued he is a diagnosed schizophrenic with no rational understanding of his impending execution. "After hearing the evidence ... the court is compelled to stay these executions", she said.

Arkansas' state attorney general Leslie Rutledge has appealed against the court decision saying: "We do have a number of pieces of litigation that we are working (on)".

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

Baker granted a temporary injunction for all eight inmates, halting their executions on grounds including that the state's protocols violate US constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

Governor Asa Hutchinson had scheduled the first two of seven executions for Monday night.

Arkansas says it can not find a new drug supply if the executions are delayed. 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.

McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc., which distributes the paralytic, won a temporary restraining order Friday to stop Arkansas from using the drug in executions, claiming that the Correction Department obtained it through deceit and that the company would suffer "irreparable harm" if it is used in executions.

Arkansas set up a schedule to execute eight prisoners before its supply of the sedative midazolam expires at the end of the month.

"Immediate reversal is warranted", Arkansas' solicitor general, Lee Rudofsky, wrote Saturday in the state's appeal to the St. Louis-based 8th Circuit.