In an order not received until after 11:30 p.m., the U.S. Supreme Court denied Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s application to vacate a stay imposed by the Arkansas Supreme Court on the execution of Don Davis. A warrant for Davis’ execution had been issued for today. It was to expire at midnight. In preparation for the Court’s ruling, the state had moved witnesses into the execution viewing room.
The state Supreme Court granted a stay of the execution of Davis today without explanation. Attorneys for Davis and another death row inmate, Bruce Ward, had asked the state Supreme Court to stop the executions until the U.S. Supreme Court can decide a case over adequate consideration of mental state of people sentenced to death. The U.S. Supreme Court is to hear an Alabama case April 24.
The question is whether an indigent defendant had adequate access to experts to develop a defense based on mental health. An evaluation of a defendant’s competency by an expert shared by prosecution and defense is inadequate, the defense argues. Ward’s attorneys have said he suffers from severe and life long schizophrenia and delusions. Davis has an IQ low enough to approach disability, plus ADHD and psychoactive substance abuse disorders, according to a news release on his original court filing.
The state Supreme Court stayed Ward’s execution, which had also been scheduled for today, on Friday. After the state Court declined to vacate the stay on Monday, Rutledge said she would not asking the U.S. Supreme Court to override the stay for Ward.
She offered a statement late Monday night:
“It is heartbreaking that the family of Jane Daniel has once again seen justice delayed. 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.
“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. The families have waited far too long to see justice, and I will continue to make that a priority.”
So did Governor Hutchinson:
“The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to vacate the Arkansas Supreme Court decision in reference to Don Davis. I am disappointed in this delay for the victim’s family. However, the 8th Circuit decision today overturning Judge Baker’s stay and the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling vacating Judge Griffen’s temporary restraining order mean that the courts have once again cleared the state to proceed with carrying out the sentences of the other inmates. 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.”