Today, the Arkansas death row prisoners scheduled for execution asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency stay. Federal public defenders Scott Braden and John Williams also asked the high court to overturn the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit and uphold U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker’s preliminary injunction.
Tomorrow, Stacey Johnson is scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m., and Ledell Lee is scheduled to be put to death at 8:15 p.m. Two more executions are scheduled to be held on Monday, and one is scheduled for Thursday, April 27.
In their petition, the inmates’ attorneys argue that the 8th Circuit’s quick review of an extensive hearing that resulted in a 101-page preliminary injunction order from a U.S. district court was so out of step with normal judicial review that the Supreme Court should intervene. They also point to the splits that have emerged in the U.S. Court of Appeals over how to interpret he U.S. Supreme Court’s Glossip v. Gross decision. In Glossip, the Supreme Court said whether an execution protocol constituted cruel and inhumane punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, should be determined by comparing it to “known and available alternatives.” The 6th, 8th and 11th Circuits have all interpreted what “known and available alternatives” means, according to the filing.
From the petition:
Absent this Court’s intervention, Petitioners will be put to death in Arkansas after summary appellate review—despite significant evidence that their executions will violate the Eighth Amendment—while similarly situated prisoners in Ohio will be permitted the opportunity to vindicate their Eighth Amendment rights in due course at a trial on the merits. Likewise, Petitioners in Arkansas will be put to death because, in the Eighth Circuit’s estimation, they cannot show an execution method that states have previously used successfully and that the State can “easily” acquire. The Court should take this case to impose order on what has become a distressingly uneven field of litigation—one where appellate standards and circuit splits mean the difference between constitutional and unconstitutional executions.