State and federal courts lifted the two primary obstacles Arkansas faced in its plan to execute eight inmates before the end of April, but the state backed away from legal efforts to carry out one of the first two lethal injections scheduled Monday night, the AP reports. The decisions from the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court were among a flurry of legal actions over the series of planned lethal injections that, if carried out, would mark the most inmates put to death by a state in such a short period since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The rulings left the state fighting against the clock to execute convicted killer Don Davis before his death warrant was expected to expire at midnight.
Davis and Bruce Ward were set to be executed Monday night and had been granted stays by the state Supreme Court, but Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she wouldn't appeal Ward's stay at this time. Separately, a federal appeals court overturned US District Judge Kristine Baker's decision to halt the executions over the use of midazolam, which has been used in flawed executions in other states, but the Arkansas Supreme Court's stays remain in place. A little over an hour later, the state Supreme Court lifted a judge's ruling that had effectively blocked the executions by prohibiting the state from using its supply of vecuronium bromide, one of the other lethal injection drugs. A medical supply company said it was misled by the state and that the drug was sold for medical purposes, not executions. (Read more Arkansas stories.)