State vows to get ex­e­cu­tions back on track

ACLU filed suit Thurs­day

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

Arkansas of­fi­cials vowed to keep the state’s re­main­ing five ex­e­cu­tions on track af­ter Mon­day came and went with­out ei­ther of the two sched­uled ex­e­cu­tions tak­ing place.

“There are five sched­uled ex­e­cu­tions re­main­ing with noth­ing pre­vent­ing them from oc­cur­ring, but I will con­tinue to re­spond to any and all le­gal chal­lenges brought by the pris­on­ers,” said Arkansas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Les­lie Rut­ledge.

The next two ex­e­cu­tions un­der the 11-day timetable are sched­uled for Thurs­day, with the state in a race against the clock to carry out the ex­e­cu­tions be­fore one of three lethal­in­jec­tion drugs used in the pro­to­col ex­pires April 30.

Slated for ex­e­cu­tion on Thurs­day are Ledell Lee, 51, and Stacey John­son, 48, both found guilty of mur­ders com­mit­ted in 1993.

At­tor­neys with the ACLU filed an ap­peal Tues­day on be­half of Lee, ar­gu­ing that he has suf­fered from in­com­pe­tent coun­sel and calling for DNA test­ing on hair and blood ev­i­dence.

Bruce Ward and Don Davis, both con­victed mur­der­ers, won stays of ex­e­cu­tion from the Arkansas Supreme Court hours be­fore they were slated to be put to death Mon­day evening.

U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice Sa­muel Al­ito de­nied with­out ex­pla­na­tion the state’s re­quest to over­turn the stay of ex­e­cu­tion for Davis shortly be­fore mid­night Mon­day.

Davis, 52, al­ready had re­ceived his last meal and was await­ing ex­e­cu­tion in a hold­ing cell at the Cum­mins prison unit near Pine Bluff when word of Jus­tice Al­ito’s de­ci­sion ar­rived at about 11:45 p.m. Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette.

Ward, 61, was never moved to the hold­ing fa­cil­ity af­ter the state de­clined to file an ap­peal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This process puts the fam­i­lies through hell,” J.R. Davis, spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchin­son, told re­porters af­ter the Supreme Court de­ci­sion was an­nounced.

Mr. Hutchin­son said he was “dis­ap­pointed in this de­lay for the vic­tim’s fam­ily,” but noted that the state had been suc­cess­ful in its ef­forts to va­cate two court or­ders block­ing the slate of ex­e­cu­tions sched­uled to con­clude April 27.

“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,” the Repub­li­can gov­er­nor said.

Ward was found guilty in the 1989 stran­gu­la­tion death of 18-year-old Re­becca Doss as she worked the night shift at a con­ve­nience store in Lit­tle Rock.

Davis was con­victed of the 1990 mur­der of Jane Daniel, 62, dur­ing a bur­glary at her home in Rogers in what has been de­scribed as an ex­e­cu­tion-style slay­ing.

The state has been un­able to ob­tain ad­di­tional sup­plies of mi­da­zo­lam, the seda­tive used in the three-drug pro­to­col, with phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers in­creas­ingly un­will­ing to pro­vide drugs to be used for ex­e­cu­tions.

“It is heart­break­ing that the fam­ily of Jane Daniel has once again seen jus­tice de­layed,” said Mr. Hutchin­son. “Davis was con­victed of his crimes in 1992, and my of­fice took ev­ery ac­tion it could today to see that jus­tice was car­ried out. Ul­ti­mately, the U.S. Supreme Court has the fi­nal say and has de­cided not to lift the stay at this time.”

The at­tor­ney for the in­mates won stays of ex­e­cu­tion af­ter ask­ing for a de­lay to await the out­come of a U.S. Supreme Court case on whether de­fen­dants are en­ti­tled to a men­tal-health eval­u­a­tion in­de­pen­dent of the pros­e­cu­tion.

The court is sched­uled to hear oral ar­gu­ment in the case, McWil­liams v. Dunn, on Mon­day.

Scott Braden, the as­sis­tant fed­eral pub­lic de­fender rep­re­sent­ing Ward and Davis, said late Mon­day that the men “were de­nied ac­cess to in­de­pen­dent men­tal health ex­perts, even though they clearly demon­strated that men­tal health is­sues would be sig­nif­i­cant fac­tors at their tri­als.”

“Mr. Ward has se­vere and life-long schizophre­nia, breaks with re­al­ity, and delu­sions, such as see­ing de­mon dogs at the foot of his bed since child­hood,” said Mr. Braden in a state­ment to the Arkansas Times. “Mr. Davis has or­ganic brain dam­age, in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity, a his­tory of head in­juries, fe­tal al­co­hol syn­drome, and other se­vere men­tal health con­di­tions.”

Mr. Hutchin­son had sched­uled eight ex­e­cu­tions to take place be­tween April 17-27, which would have been the most in an 11-day pe­riod car­ried out by any state since the death penalty was re­in­stated in 1976.

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