The state's use of midazolam in its three-drug cocktail is controversial, because opponents of the death penalty say it is not effective at rendering the inmate unconscious.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who set the execution dates, noted in a statement that the state Supreme Court's decision to issue the stay was not unanimous, "and the dissenting opinions reflect the harm the delays cause the families of the victims and it also expresses my frustration in the continued delayed justice".
The Arkansas Department of Corrections had, nevertheless, prepared for Davis' execution Monday night while lawyers for the state asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the death sentences to be carried out. At 11:45, there was still no word from the high court. Critics contend it does not put a person in a deep enough state of unconsciousness and should not be used in executions.
Arkansas death row inmate Don Davis ate his last meal tonight as state and federal courts deliberated over whether to proceed with his execution.
The judge in question, Wendell Griffen, has since been removed from all cases involving the death penalty, under an order from the Arkansas Supreme Court, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. That order remains in place.
State law requires a 30-day comment period on favourable recommendations, but those 30 days expire after Arkansas' midazolam supply.
The company - which contractually prohibits its drugs from being used in executions - alleged the state purchased the drugs under false pretenses.
The Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas, planned a novena from April 9 to April 17 for those set to be executed and for clemency to be granted in their cases. At the time, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer dissented.
The US Supreme Court has spared the life of an Arkansas inmate at the last minute, scuttling efforts to resume the death penalty in the state after almost 12 years with a plan to carry out four double executions before its supply of a lethal injection drug expired. They filed a separate petition for stays on Monday with the U.S. Supreme Court over a procedural matter. The Innocence Project joined Johnson's attorneys Monday in filing a request for a stay of execution in the Sevier County Circuit Court.
The inmates' attorneys say they were denied access to independent mental health experts.
"Mr Davis has organic brain damage, intellectual disability, a history of head injuries, fetal alcohol syndrome, and other severe mental health conditions".
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.
In a 4-3 decision, Arkansas' highest court stayed the executions of Ward and Davis, each of whom has spent more than 20 years on death row.
According to the DOC, Davis had what was supposed to be his last meal.
At the demonstration, Griffen was strapped to a cot.
In 2014, Oklahoma was the last state to try carrying out two executions on the same night, an effort that went badly awry.
The state decided not to challenge the stay for Ward.
"Reject the state's request for a rushed analysis of this complex record", they wrote.
The first prisoner scheduled to die was Ward, who was convicted in 1990 of murdering an 18-year-old shop assistant named Rebecca Doss. Two inmates are due to be put to death on Thursday.
The state also argued that U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker abused her discretion on Saturday when she ruled about potential harm from midazolam.
The state of Arkansas appealed and has asked for a quick decision. The typical dose is up to.1 mg/kg intravenously, or 8.5 mg for the typical inmate set to die this month.
Arkansas says it can not find a new drug supply if the executions are delayed.
Arkansas is fighting on multiple legal fronts to begin a series of double-executions.
"To protect the integrity of the judicial system this court has a duty to ensure that all are given a fair and impartial tribunal", the court said in its two-page order.
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