LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The first two inmates facing lethal injection under Arkansas’ unprecedented multiple execution plan asked the state Supreme Court for a stay Wednesday while the nation’s highest court takes up a case that could bolster arguments about their mental fitness.
Attorneys for Don Davis and Bruce Ward asked justices to block their executions, scheduled for Monday, while the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a case concerning access to independent mental health experts by defendants. The U.S. high court is set to hold oral arguments in that case April 24, a week after Ward and Davis are set to be put to death. The two men are among seven who face execution over a 10-day period.
Ward and Davis’ attorneys say they were denied access to independent mental health experts in their cases. 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.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office said she’s reviewing the filing but continues to expect the executions will go ahead as scheduled.
Arkansas hasn’t executed an inmate since 2005 because of drug shortages and legal challenges. Gov. Asa Hutchinson scheduled the executions to occur before the state’s supply of midazolam, one of three drugs used in its lethal injection process, expires at the end of the month. If carried out, it would be the most executions performed by a state in that short a time period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
The filing is among a flurry of lawsuits attempting to halt the executions. A federal judge is holding a hearing this week over the request by the seven inmates for a preliminary injunction blocking the executions. The inmates are challenging the compressed timetable of the executions as well as the use of midazolam, a sedative that’s been used in flawed executions in other states.
Ward also has a lawsuit pending in Jefferson County Circuit Court aimed at halting his execution.