Setback doesn't deter Arkansas plans for later executions

The eight were scheduled to be executed in the biggest flurry lethal injections in modern U.S. history.

Arkansas' Supreme Court halted two executions hours before they were due to take place on Monday, while a federal appeals court overruled a lower court decision that had blocked the state's original plan to put eight inmates to death in an 11-day period. But Arkansas's attorney general requested that the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the ruling so that Davis's execution could be carried out.

Hutchinson noted that the state Supreme Court decision was not unanimous and said any further delay harms the loved ones of the two people killed by Davis and Ward. Lawyers for the state responded that there is no right to a "partisan psychiatrist" and that "a neutral court-appointed psychiatrist who is equally available to both parties" is sufficient.

Another stay is in place for Ward, whose attorneys say he is too mentally ill to be executed.

Earlier, the state high court's 4-3 decision was a response to a plea for the state to avoid executing Davis until the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in a pending case. The justices are set to hold oral arguments on April 24.

Justices declined an appeal from the state's attorney general to lift a stay barring the execution of Don Davis, who was slated to be the first of several inmates to die this month. Some medical experts have claimed it is not proven to be effective as an anesthetic, thus exposing an inmate to the risk of severe pain as the other drugs are administered. Critics contend it does not put a person in a deep enough state of unconsciousness and should not be used in executions.

These executions were announced months ago by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who said they had to be done in quick succession to use the state's final batch of the Midazolam before it expired at the end of April.

Both actions marked a victory for Arkansas officials still hoping to carry out the lethal injections scheduled for Tuesday or in the coming days.

He said the state would continue towards carrying out the executions of the other inmates.

Death penalty opponents have criticised the scheduling, while former corrections officials urged the state to rethink the timeline, warning that it heightened the chances of a mistake.

US District Court Judge Kristine Baker also issued a preliminary injunction Saturday in a separate legal challenge filed by inmates against the state's rapid timetable - as well as the drug protocol.

The governor's office indicated it now meant to ask the state supreme court to reconsider its opinion upholding the stay, and to appeal the injunction directly to the U.S. supreme court.

Hutchinson's representative said that a jury in Arkansas and Arkansas law provided these families with this sentence, and they'll have to continue their 27-year wait for justice.

Three Arkansas justices dissented, with Associate Justice Shawn Womack writing that Ward and Davis "had their day in court, the jury spoke, and decades of appeals have occurred".

FOX13's Zach Crenshaw will be in Arkansas on Thursday when the next two executions are scheduled.

Davis is on death row for the 1990 shooting death of Jane Daniel.

Earlier, Davis had his "last meal" at the Cummins Unit, where the execution chamber is located.

The state has not said whether it will appeal against a federal judge's decision to grant a stay to another inmate, Jason McGehee, who had won a clemency recommendation from the state parole board.

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