(Arkansas Department of Correction via AP). Because the state's supply reaches its expiration date April 30, Arkansas scheduled eight executions before then.
The Supreme Court rejected Arkansas' request to lift a stay late Monday that would allowed the state to conduct its first execution since 2005.
By the time the court reached a decision Monday night, Davis had already received his last meal and the execution team was ready.
"After the darkness of Good Friday has come a great light", stated Karen Clifton, executive director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network, which works to end the death penalty.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson scheduled eight lethal injections to take place over an 11-day window, a pace unmatched in the modern era, which he defended as needed because one of the state's drugs is expiring this month and no replacement could be guaranteed amid an ongoing shortage. None of them suffer from any legal roadblocks - due to the 8th Circuit dropping stays on all of the inmates and the Arkansas Supreme Court dropping a temporary restraining order on one of the execution drugs.
The attorney for Davis and Ward requested stays of execution until the US Supreme Court rules on an upcoming case concerning inmate access to independent mental health experts. The supplier McKesson Corp. has said it sold Arkansas the drug for use in inmate health care, not executions. The state asked the court to reconsider the stay, which the court declined to do Monday evening.
The ruling comes after the court removed Judge Wendell Griffen from the case and reassigned any of his cases dealing with the death penalty or the state's execution protocol. The justices are set to hold oral arguments next week. A state court judge on Friday blocked Arkansas from using one of its three lethal injection drugs until he can determine whether it was obtained properly, and a federal judge on Saturday issued stays of all the executions. "The families are entitled to closure and finality of the law".
"Both Mr. Ward and Mr. Davis were denied independent mental health experts to help their defense attorneys investigate, understand, and present these critical mental health issues to the jury", Assistant Federal Defender Scott Braden said in a statement.
The court's decision was the second time Don Davis has been granted a reprieve shortly before execution - he came within hours of death in 2010.
Also on Monday, the court granted an additional stay to Ward and a stay for Davis on a claim that their executions should both be stayed pending the outcome of a case before the US Supreme Court now, McWilliams v. Dunn. The woman was killed in her home after Davis broke in and shot her with a.44-caliber revolver he found there. Ward's attorneys have argued he is a diagnosed schizophrenic with no rational understanding of his impending execution.
Arkansas had scheduled the executions to occur before the state's supply of midazolam expires at the end of April. If court proceedings are pushed into May, Arkansas won't be able to carry out the executions with the drugs it has on hand.
While the two Monday night executions sit in legal limbo, the rest of the executions for now seem to be on track to go ahead as planned.
Don Davis had been given his last meal Monday evening, with the U.S. high court decision to leave a state court's stay of execution in place coming as the minutes ticked toward 1 a.m. ET (midnight Central Time) when the execution warrant was to expire.
The use of midazolam is controversial with opponents of the death penalty saying not effective at rendering the inmate unconscious.
Griffen said he wouldn't consider a person's participation in an anti-execution event enough, on its own, to warrant disqualifying a juror from a death penalty case.
The state and federal judges' rulings are both under appeal by the state.