Arkansas faces two setbacks to plan for multiple executions
The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted one of two executions planned for Thursday night, once again throwing a wrench in the state's plans to conduct several executions before the end of April, when one of its lethal injection drugs expires, the AP reports. The court ruled that Stacey Johnson could pursue his requests for enhanced DNA testing in hopes of proving his innocence in the 1993 rape and killing of Carol Heath. On Wednesday, inmates asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case challenging the use of a sedative used in flawed executions in other states and one of three drugs Arkansas plans to use in its executions. But courts have blocked three of those executions from going forward.
A spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said the state is reviewing its options regarding Johnson's case.
The Supreme Court has the final say on nearly every execution, and the justices reject all but a few emergency appeals by inmates.
Pharmaceuticals companies and other suppliers have objected to their drugs being used in executions and have been trying to stop states from getting supplies for lethal injections.
A 101-page order that a federal judge filed early Saturday to block the executions was reversed Monday by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"Apparently the reason the state chose to proceed with these eight executions is that the "use by" date of the state's execution drug is about to expire", Breyer wrote. The legal setbacks at one point prompted the state's previous attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, to declare Arkansas' death penalty system "broken".
"It is inappropriate for the state to rush to execute before a defendant's innocence claim can be properly examined", said Nina Morrison, a senior staff attorney with the Innocence Project.
"In doing so, ADC led McKesson to believe that the order was placed at the request of or for the benefit of the licensed physician and would be used for a legitimate medical goal", McKesson said in the court document.
In court papers filed Thursday, they say any new judges assigned to their cases in a state court at Little Rock should have time to become familiar with their pleadings.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has rejected a stay request from an inmate as it seeks to hold its first executions since 2005, though another court decision has all executions scheduled in the state on hold. Justice Stephen Breyer said in a dissent he was troubled by Arkansas' push to execute the inmates before its supply of midazolam expires.
A death row inmate scheduled to be executed in an Arkansas prison today was granted a stay by the highest court in the U.S. state hours before his lethal injection, his attorneys said. One of those cases spared Don Davis, who again received a stay Monday night.
The judge facing re-election, Courtney Goodson, lost her bid for chief justice past year after conservative groups blanketed the state with ads attacking her. Reese was found dead in her home in Jacksonville, Arkansas, where she had been strangled and beaten with a small wooden bat her husband gave her for protection.
The court hasn't explained its reasoning in any of its one-page stay-of-execution orders for the three inmates. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, which came up at Wednesday's court hearing, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions. Four of the eight have been granted stays of execution.