The inmates say midazolam is unsuitable as an execution drug, saying it is not a pain-killer and could subject them to a cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution. They've argued that Ward has a lifelong history of severe mental illness and that Davis has an IQ in the range of intellectual disability. State law requires a 30-day comment period on favorable recommendations, but those 30 days expire after Arkansas' midazolam supply. After a judge blocked one of the executions to allow for a determination of an inmate's mental competency, the state was seeking to proceed with the seven other executions.
Six Death Row prisoners lined up for execution in Arkansas by the end of this month want an appeals court to decide on their claim that the tight timetable would violate "evolving standards of decency".
Justices on Monday reassigned the cases from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen. His rationale is as harebrained as it sounds: The state needs to hurry to beat the looming expiration date of one of the drugs in its cocktail of lethal injections. Griffen participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration after issuing the ruling Friday. Local media outlets had tweeted photos and video of Griffen appearing to mimic an inmate strapped to a gurney at the demonstration. He has said he's morally opposed to the death penalty and that his personal beliefs alone shouldn't disqualify him from taking up certain cases.
But rulings by four judges have put the brakes on the Arkansas plan, which has drawn challenges from inmates and from drug companies claiming the prison system deceived them over procurement.
In an order issued Sunday night, U.S. District Judge Susan Hickey of the Western District of Arkansas denied separate motions filed Wednesday by Davis' attorneys for relief of judgment and a stay of his execution.
State attorneys have appealed most of the orders blocking executions, including Ward's stay.
Ward was convicted of killing a convenience store clerk. Ward was one of originally eight inmates scheduled to die through lethal injection at the end of April. But the ruling did not change the situation because Baker's order had already halted all the executions.
Ward's attorneys say he's a diagnosed schizophrenic with no rational understanding of his impending execution.
Rutledge spokesman Judd Deere said the office still holds the option to appeal the McGehee decision.
McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc., which distributes the paralytic, won a temporary restraining order Friday to stop Arkansas from using the drug in executions, claiming that the Correction Department obtained it through deceit and that the company would suffer "irreparable harm" if it is used in executions.
The state appealed U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker's order hours later, hoping to follow through with its planned 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.
Arkansas says it can not find a new drug supply if the executions are delayed. Arkansas hasn't carried out a double execution since 1999.
FILE - This 2013 file photo provided by the Arkansas Department of Correction shows Don William Davis, who has been scheduled for execution Monday, April 17, 2017.
On Friday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen stopped the state from using its supply of vecuronium bromide after a distributor alleged that prison officials used false pretences to obtain it.
"It also disregarded the fact that delaying Appellees' executions by even a few days - until after Arkansas's supply of midazolam expires - will make it impossible for Arkansas to carry out Appellees' just and lawful sentences", the court filing stated, referring to the midazolam that is set to expire at the end of the month.