|Published : 18 Apr 2017, 19:22:12 | Updated : 18 Apr 2017, 19:27:25|
US court halts executions amid legal battles
The US Supreme Court spared the life of two Arkansas death-row convicts minutes before their death warrants were due to expire Monday.
In doing so, the apex court scuttled bid for resuming the death penalty after nearly 12 years in the state with a plan to carry out four double executions before its supply of a lethal injection drug expires.
The court's decision to maintain the stay for Don Davis and Bruce Ward capped a chaotic day of legal wrangling in state and federal courts to clear the primary obstacles Arkansas faced in carrying out its first executions since 2005.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who had set the multiple executions, said the state would continue to push for the other lethal injections to be carried out. Two prison inmates are due to be put to death Thursday.
Convicted of murder, Davis, 55, and Ward, 60, were being held in cells near the state's death chamber and their execution warrants expired at midnight.
Davis was served his "last meal" of fried chicken, rolls, beans, mashed potatoes and strawberry cake as his fate was being decided, in the event that the US Supreme Court would give the green light for his execution.
Arkansas had initially planned to execute eight prisoners in just 11 days - before its supply of a lethal injection drug expires on May 1. It has not found a new supplier of the controversial drug, midazolam.
Legal battles have prevented the state from executing any prisoner since 2005.
Anti-death penalty activists have protested what has been labelled "assembly line killings".
Lawyers argue that setting a "kill-by" date for so many prisoners at such short notice contravenes their constitutional right to due process.