The US Supreme Court denies state's request to vacate the Arkansas Supreme Court stay on Monday's executions. Arkansas planned to execute eight inmates before the end of April, timing it before one of its lethal injection drugs expires.

Eight inmates were originally scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Arkansas. The first two were planned for April 17, 2017.
Eight inmates were originally scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Arkansas. The first two were planned for April 17, 2017. (TRT World and Agencies)

Arkansas' attorney general and governor are vowing to pursue a series of executions scheduled over the next two weeks even after the state's supreme court halted the first two lethal injections hours before they were to take place.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she will continue to seek justice for the families of victims and pursue two executions scheduled for Thursday, a pair set for April 24 and one planned for April 27.

"I will continue to respond to any and all legal challenges brought by the prisoners," she said in a statement late on Monday.

Rutledge's statement came moments after the US Supreme Court denied her request to vacate a stay issued by the Arkansas Supreme Court on the execution that was scheduled on Monday for Don Davis.

The court's decision is the latest in a flurry of legal setbacks to the southeastern state's original plan to carry out eight executions between April 17 and 27, an unprecedented pace.

The battle between Arkansas and the courts

The legal fight in Arkansas, which last put someone to death 12 years ago, came after the number of US executions fell to a quarter-century low in 2016. Capital punishment in several states was stymied by problems with lethal-injection drugs and legal questions over their protocols.

Davis and fellow inmate Bruce Ward, both of whom have spent more than 20 years on death row, were scheduled to die on Monday night before the Arkansas Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, stayed the executions after their lawyers raised questions about their mental competency.

Rutledge's office declined to challenge the stay ordered for Ward.

"While this has been an exhausting day for all involved, tomorrow we will continue to fight back on last minute appeals and efforts to block justice for the victims' families," said Governor Asa Hutchinson in a statement.

In a separate ruling on Monday, the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals in St Louis overruled a lower court decision that had blocked the state's original plan to put eight inmates to death.

Critics have contended that Arkansas' rush to the death chamber was reckless. The state has said it had to act quickly because one of the drugs in its difficult-to-obtain lethal injection mix, the valium-like sedative midazolam, expires at the end of April.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies