Arkansas in­mate’s bid to drop ex­e­cu­tion stay de­nied

El Dorado News-Times - - Opinion - By John Moritz

Arkansas’ Supreme Court jus­tices, who in April stayed the ex­e­cu­tion of Don Davis, said Thurs­day that the con­demned killer can­not fire his le­gal team and drop the ap­peal that has, for now, spared his life.

In a se­ries of hand­writ­ten mo­tions sent from prison over the past two months, Davis, 52, asked the high court to drop his case and re­move the on­go­ing stay prevent­ing his ex­e­cu­tion.

Davis did not ex­plain his ra­tio­nale. Each mo­tion, on lined le­gal pa­per, con­tains just a few sim­ple sen­tences in neatly writ­ten, curvy printed let­ter­ing.

Fed­eral pub­lic de­fend­ers hired to rep­re­sent Davis sep­a­rately filed a re­ply, ask­ing the court to only rec­og­nize ar­gu­ments made by Davis’ le­gal team, and to dis­miss the pris­oner’s mo­tions.

A re­sponse from the state at­tor­ney called Davis’ let­ters a “dila­tory tac­tic.”

The Supreme Court, rul­ing on mo­tions in dozens of cases Thurs­day, sim­ply de­nied Davis’ re­quest without a writ­ten opin­ion.

Scott Braden, one of Davis’ fed­eral pub­lic de­fend­ers, said he had not spo­ken re­cently with his client — one of sev­eral men he rep­re­sents on death row — and did not know why Davis sought to end the stay on his ex­e­cu­tion.

Asked if Davis wanted to die, Braden said, “He sure didn’t in April.”

Davis has lived in a soli­tary cell on death row since 1992, when he was con­victed in the ex­e­cu­tion-style shoot­ing of Jane Daniel, 62, af­ter rob­bing her in­side her Rogers home.

Dur­ing his years­long ap­peals process, Davis was ap­pointed fed­eral de­fend­ers by a U.S. district judge. Braden said it would be up to a fed­eral judge to re­move Davis’ le­gal team.

The Arkansas Supreme Court “didn’t ap­point us, so they can­not be the one to un­ap­point us,” Braden said.

Gov. Asa Hutchin­son set Davis’ ex­e­cu­tion for April 17, part of the first pair in a se­ries of eight planned ex­e­cu­tions that brought in­ter­na­tional news crews — and a traf­fic jam of law­suits — to Arkansas. Davis made it as far as the hold­ing cell out­side the ex­e­cu­tion cham­ber at the Cum­mins prison be­fore his ex­e­cu­tion was called off at 11:45 p.m. that day.

Lawyers for Davis and Bruce Earl Ward, an­other in­mate set to die April 17, suc­cess­fully pe­ti­tioned the Arkansas Supreme Court to de­lay the ex­e­cu­tions while the U.S. Supreme Court sep­a­rately con­sid­ered a case out of Alabama, where a con­demned man sought ac­cess to an in­de­pen­dent men­tal health ex­am­i­na­tion pre­sented at trial.

Courts ul­ti­mately blocked four of the eight planned ex­e­cu­tions. The other four in­mates were put to death.

By the times the U.S. high court ruled in fa­vor of the Alabama pris­oner in McWil­liams v. Dunn, Arkansas’ sup­ply of a drug needed to con­duct ex­e­cu­tions had ex­pired. Davis’ at­tor­neys are now ask­ing jus­tices in Arkansas to ap­ply the same right to in­de­pen­dent men­tal health ex­am­i­na­tions to Davis and Ward, whose ex­e­cu­tions re­main on hold.

The Arkansas De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tion an­nounced in Au­gust that it has again ob­tained a sup­ply of drugs to carry out lethal in­jec­tions, and Hutchin­son set a Nov. 9 ex­e­cu­tion date for Jack Gor­don Greene, who was not among those set to die in April.

Stays re­main in place for three of the men granted April re­prieves, and Hutchin­son has since granted clemency to a fourth con­demned man.

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