Arkansas judge barred from death penalty cases

Image Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

Image Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

But the state was hoping to win last-minute reversals of the decisions for convicted murderers Don Davis and Bruce Ward and was still preparing for the executions to go ahead, prisons spokesman Solomon Graves told reporters.

Baker ordered lawyers for the state and the death row prisoners to return to court on Monday with a revised plan for viewing the executions and having defense counsel present.

Two of the executions had been stayed individually before all eight of them were blocked by a state judge and a federal judge.

"To protect the integrity of the judicial system this court has a duty to ensure that all are given a fair and impartial tribunal", said the Arkansas Supreme Court in its order. Ward's attorneys have argued he is a diagnosed schizophrenic with no rational understanding of his impending execution.

The attorney general's office said Rutledge is " evaluating options" on how to proceed.

Stay with THV11 and thv11.com for more details as they become available.

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Lawmakers have suggested the move may be grounds for the Arkansas House to begin impeachment proceedings, saying the demonstration and a blog post Griffen wrote on the death penalty last week may amount to "gross misconduct" under the state constitution. The Arkansas Department of Correction's supply of midazolam, one of three drugs in the state's lethal-injection protocol, expires April 30. The court directed that Griffen be referred to the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission to determine whether he violated ethical requirements. The court has not ruled on the state's request to reconsider that stay. "We are calling on state officials to accept the federal court's decision, cancel the frantic execution schedule, and propose a legal and humane method to carry out its executions". People gather at a rally opposing the state's upcoming executions, on the front steps of Arkansas' Capitol, Friday, April 14, 2017, in Little Rock, Ark.

The fight in Arkansas, which has not held an execution in 12 years, came after USA executions fell to a quarter-century low in 2016 and as several capital-punishment states have been sidelined due to problems with lethal injection drugs and legal questions over their protocols. She could ask either the state court or the U.S. Supreme Court for the review.

Rutledge filed an emergency petition with the Arkansas Supreme Court on Saturday seeking to overturn Griffen's order.

Baker's ruling prompted McKesson Corp., a medical supply company, to ask Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen to vacate his Friday order blocking the executions over the company's claims the vecuronium bromide was sold to the state for medical purposes, not lethal injection.

The state has not said whether it will appeal 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. But U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued stays Saturday so the inmates could pursue a claim that they could suffer "severe pain".

In its request that the 8th Circuit review whether the inmates should be spared because of society's "evolving standards of decency", the inmates lawyers say that even the executioners could benefit if Arkansas used a less-compressed timetable. They say in their filings that the stays should be reversed immediately so Arkansas can carry out the executions before one of its lethal injection drugs expires at the end of the month.

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