Blocking Execution, US Supreme Court Deals Blow to Arkansas' "Hankering to Kill"

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Blocking Execution, US Supreme Court Deals Blow to Arkansas' "Hankering to Kill"

With five more men slated for execution, death-penalty critics are encouraging people to speak out

"I've never beheld such a powerful official hankering to kill and kill now as was evident Monday night in the political leadership of Arkansas," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist John Brummett wrote Tuesday. (Photo: javacolleen/cc/flickr)

"I've never beheld such a powerful official hankering to kill and kill now as was evident Monday night in the political leadership of Arkansas," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist John Brummett wrote Tuesday. (Photo: javacolleen/cc/flickr)

Despite state leaders' "hankering to kill," the U.S. Supreme Court late Monday refused to allow the state to proceed with its scheduled execution, dealing yet another legal blow to the government's planned spree.

"The nation's highest court took several hours to reach its decision, finally announcing at 11:50pm [local time] that it had declined to lift a stay on the execution of Don Davis, 54, imposed earlier in the day by the supreme court of Arkansas," the Guardian's Ed Pilkington reported.

The other inmate, Bruce Ward, who was also scheduled to be executed on Monday, did not have his stay challenged by Arkansas attorney general Leslie Rutledge, who reportedly kept a staff working around the clock Easter weekend to "dismantle the roadblocks," as NBC News put it, hindering the plan to kill eight people in 11 days.

Davis, said to be intellectually disabled, now joins Ward and inmate Jason McGehee, whose death sentence was also recently blocked by a federal judge. The "execution assembly line" was planned by Republican governor Asa Hutchinson to fast-track state killings before the end-of-the-month expiration date on the state's supply of midazolam. The sedative has a grisly record when combined with other drugs for a lethal injection "cocktail," which a federal judge over the weekend said threatens inmates' constitutional rights.

"I've never beheld such a powerful official hankering to kill and kill now as was evident Monday night in the political leadership of Arkansas," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist John Brummett wrote Tuesday in a powerful op-ed skewering Hutchinson and Rutledge.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling "is certain to embolden the defense lawyers of the remaining five death-row inmates who still face the gurney, starting with Stacey Johnson and Ledell Lee on Thursday," Pilkington observed.

Indeed, even before the Supreme Court reached its decision on Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a stay for Lee, who they say has had "horrible legal counsel," in addition to being intellectually disabled. Further, the group argues that DNA samples recovered from the crime scene were never properly tested.

Leading anti-death penalty voice Sister Helen Prejean, who authored the book Dead Man Walking (and was later portrayed in the 1995 film by the same name), has been encouraging other opponents of state killings to "keep up the pressure" on Hutchinson and Rutledge—including people around the nation and world.

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