VARNER, Ark. -- Arkansas raced against the clock to obtain U.S. Supreme Court approval to execute a convicted killer Monday but backed off putting another inmate to death as part of what had been a plan to carry out double executions on four nights before the state's supply of a lethal injection drug expires.
In a chaotic day of legal wrangling, state and federal courts lifted the two primary obstacles Arkansas faced to carrying out its first executions since 2005 but another hurdle remained before the Supreme Court.
The decisions from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court were 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 U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The state was rushing to get approval to execute convicted killer Don Davis before his death warrant expires at midnight. Davis and Bruce Ward were set to be executed Monday night and had been granted stays by the state Supreme Court. The state decided not to challenge the stay for Ward but the U.S. Supreme Court was weighing whether to allow Davis' execution.
The state scheduled the executions to occur before its supply of midazolam expires at the end of the month, and Arkansas has not found a new supplier of the lethal injection drug.
"Allowing (Davis') stay to stand will effectively prevent Arkansas from seeing justice done," Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Separately, a federal appeals court overturned U.S. 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.