Governor To Discuss Executions With Reporters Amid Legal Action

Apr 12, 2017

Death row inmates Bruce Earl Ward, left, and Don William Davis. Both men are scheduled for execution April 17, 2017.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is to talk with reporters Thursday morning about the pending executions of seven death row inmates. The governor scheduled the lethal injections over a 10-day period before the state's supply of one of the drugs used in the process expires.

That will occur on the same day that a federal court hearing is expected to wrap up with the inmates challenging the state’s execution plan. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker is considering whether the expedited schedule unconstitutionally impacts the inmates' access to effective legal counsel and increases the risk of error by the Department of Correction. The case has also involved testimony about botched executions in other states where the sedative midazolam was used in the lethal injection process.

Meanwhile the first two inmates scheduled to die are asking for a stay from the Arkansas Supreme Court. The request was filed Wednesday on behalf of Don Davis and Bruce Ward whose executions are set for Monday night.

Their attorneys say the U.S. Supreme Court should first be allowed to consider a case that deals with whether an indigent defendant is entitled to access to independent mental health experts. On April 24, the highest court in the country is scheduled hear oral arguments in that case, McWilliams v. Dunn, which originated in Alabama. The hearing will come a week after Davis and Ward are scheduled to be put to death.

Attorneys for the two inmates filed a motion Wednesday saying the two were not granted access to independent mental health experts in their trials. The attorneys say that both men are afflicted mental illness or intellectual disability. The two men are among seven death row inmates Arkansas plans to execute this month.