Arkansas vows to keep pushing for executions despite setback

Bruce Ward was also scheduled to be executed Monday night and had been granted a stay by the state Supreme Court.

In a 4-3 decision, Arkansas' highest court stayed the executions of Ward and Davis, each of whom has spent more than 20 years on death row.

The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked the state of Arkansas' request to carry out the first of eight death sentences before the end of the month.

On Tuesday lawyers for all eight inmates filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a reprieve for the entire group on the basis of such issues as alleged flaws in the state's execution procedures and inadequate access to legal counsel.

A different federal judge has issued a stay for an inmate who won a clemency recommendation from the state's Parole Board, while the state Supreme Court has issued one for another inmate pending more mental health tests.

As he awaited the court to decide his fate Davis ate fried chicken, mashed potatoes and strawberry cake - what could have been his last meal.

As judges halted the planned executions of eight inmates in 10 days in Arkansas, Catholics around the country pointed to messages of mercy and life in the Easter Triduum.

The execution would have been the first in Arkansas since 2005.

Davis' execution would have come two years after Arkansas enacted a measure making secret the source of its lethal injection drugs, a move officials said was necessary to find new supplies.

Ward, 60, and Davis, 55, were being held in cells near the state's death chamber and their execution warrants expired at midnight (0500 GMT Tuesday).

Associate Justice Shawn Womack, writing in dissent, said Davis and Ward "had their day in court" and that the families are "entitled to closure and finality of the law".

The state attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, vowed to press on with five other executions this week, including two set for Thursday.

Protesters gathered at The Rally to Stop the Arkansas Executions on Friday asking the governor to abolish the death penalty in the state.

The drug supplier, McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc., had stated that the drug manufacturer prohibits vecuronium for use in executions, and that Arkansas had purchased it under false pretenses. The schedule, death penalty researchers and historians said, was unequaled in the modern history of capital punishment in the United States, which reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Bishop Taylor and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, the chair of the US bishops' domestic justice and human development committee, both spoke out against the planned executions. But the appeals court said the use of the method of execution, which includes the drug, midazolam, did not create undue severe pain.

In another surprising and separate development, the Arkansas Supreme Court also lifted a lower court's order that prohibited the state from using its supply of vecuronium bromide, one of three drugs used in the lethal cocktail.

At a federal court hearing last week, prison officials testified they must conduct the executions with their current batch of midazolam, a sedative that is meant to mask the effects of drugs that will shut down the inmates' lungs and hearts.

A handful of drug companies are telling Arkansas that they don't want their products used to kill inmates.

"The Department of Correction's attention now shifts to the executions that are scheduled for Thursday", Graves said. We will you updated on all the latest execution news. McKesson cited a testimony from Rory Griffin, ADC Deputy Director, in which he said ADC "undertook these actions" knowing that the manufacturer of the drug doesn't permit it to be used in executions.