Supreme Court refuses to allow Arkansas execution

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Arkansas' attorney general says she will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a ruling from the state's highest court that blocked two executions set for Monday night.

Davis and Bruce Ward were supposed to be the first two of those Monday but Ward received a stay of execution and the state did not appeal the decision.

Among the decisions the state is appealing against is one from a federal judge who on Saturday halted all of the executions so the inmates could pursue claims their deaths could be especially painful.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request by the state of Arkansas to carry out the execution of a death row inmate who was scheduled to die before midnight.

The court voted 4-3 to stay the executions of Don Davis and Bruce Ward.

Writing in a dissent, Associate Justice Shawn Womack lamented the court's ruling.

In a statement, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson expressed his "frustration in the continued delayed justice". They include a post days before his ruling that criticized the execution push in Arkansas.

In a statement, Scott Braden, the attorney for both Davis and Ward, said his clients were "denied access to independent mental health experts, even though they clearly demonstrated that mental health issues would be significant factors at their trials".

His previous "last meal" came in 2010 before the state Supreme Court stopped his execution. Two of the inmates were granted stays of execution outside of the federal judge's 15 April decision. The issue in that case is about one of the drugs scheduled to be used in the lethal injections.

Convicted murderer Ledell Lee, 51, appeared with attorney Lee Short of North Little Rock on Tuesday afternoon before Judge Herbert Wright in Pulaski County Circuit Court for a motion hearing seeking additional examination of hair and blood samples.

Arkansas is making preparations for a series of executions that, as of late morning Monday, it is legally barred from carrying out. A federal judge has also stayed the executions on different grounds, and the state has appealed that ruling. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker halted the executions over the use of the drug, which has been used in flawed executions in other states, and over the inmates' access to attorneys on the day of the executions.

State law requires a 30-day comment period on favourable recommendations, but those 30 days expire after Arkansas' midazolam supply.

Lawyers for the condemned also say that the accelerated executions could take a severe toll on the small team of penitentiary employees who carry out the death penalty, and who have not had to do so for 12 years.

Rutledge was quick to respond to the Supreme Court's decision. The suit argued there was an unacceptably high risk they would suffer during the executions.

As for the first drug, midazolam, it has been used in botched executions in the past. But at 11:45 p.m. CT, the Court ruled to keep the lower court's ruling in place, ensuring the execution would not happen. The inmates on death row, meanwhile, have asked the courts to take the time and avoid a "rushed analysis".

A judge who lay on a cot as though he were a death row inmate on a gurney after issuing an order halting Arkansas' multiple execution plan was barred from taking up any capital punishment-related cases and referred to a disciplinary panel.

Check back with Arkansas Online for updates and read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.