Arkansas fights on multiple legal fronts to begin executions

But the Arkansas Supreme Court vacated that order after the judge, Wendell Griffen, was photographed participating in an anti-death penalty protest on the same day he issued his ruling. Two pharmaceutical companies filed a court brief last week asking a federal judge to block Arkansas from using their drugs, but the judge did not rule on that issue.

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

Davis has repeatedly faced the threat of lethal injection - he came within hours of being put to death in 2010 - and Daniel's daughter noted last month that she had traveled to Pine Bluff, near the prison, four times for executions that were eventually called off.

The inmates' attorneys argued their clients were denied access to independent mental health experts, saying Ward has a lifelong history of severe mental illness and Davis has an IQ in the range of intellectual disability.

Arkansas' next executions are scheduled to be held the evening of April 20.

Arkansas' attorney general has also asked the state Supreme Court to reconsider the stay it granted one inmate over questions about his mental health.

Until word of the decision from Washington reached the prison here in rural southeast Arkansas, state officials were optimistic that the justices would allow them to proceed with Davis' execution.

As state officials prepare to carry out a double execution Thursday ahead of a drug expiration deadline and despite the setback the U.S. Supreme Court delivered late Monday, lawyers for those condemned men look to be taking a different approach: claiming the prisoners are actually innocent.

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The executions were set for this month because Arkansas' supply of midazolam expires on May 1.

The drugs used in lethal injections by some American states - 19 of the 50 no longer execute prisoners - have become increasingly hard to obtain.

"There are five scheduled executions remaining with nothing preventing them from occurring, but I will continue to respond to any and all legal challenges brought by the prisoners", Rutledge said in a written statement.

The state's next two executions are scheduled for Thursday night. "Ultimately, the US Supreme Court has the final say and has decided not to lift the stay at this time", she said in a statement.

In addition to the Department of Correction, the lawsuit named the department's head, Wendy Kelly, and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson as defendants. They filed a separate petition for stays on Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court over a procedural matter. Federal Judge Kristine Baker followed up on April 15 with a preliminary stay of executions. The company said that it "would not knowingly sell any prescription drug to [Arkansas Department of Correction] for any objective unless the ADC had a current medical license to file".

The justices also took direct action against Judge Griffen by barring him from hearing any death penalty, execution or drug protocal cases. Midazolam has been used in a number of high-profile botched executions, including instances where inmates did not appear to be fully sedated when they received the painful second and third drugs in the cocktail.

But Hutchinson said that the state, which has not conducted an execution since 2005, would continue to push to carry out its quick-fire executions. Protesters gather outside the state Capitol building on Friday, April 14, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark., to voice their opposition to Arkansas' seven upcoming executions.

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