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Courts weighing whether Arkansas executions can happen

This 2010 photo provided by the U.S District Court of Eastern District of Arkansas shows U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker. The inmates wanted stays of execution while the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a case concerning access to independent mental health experts by defendants. They've argued that Ward has a lifelong history of severe mental illness and that Davis has an IQ in the range of intellectual disability.

Two other drug makers on Thursday asked a federal court to block Arkansas from using their drugs for upcoming executions, claiming that doing so would violate contractual controls and create a public health risk, court documents showed. A federal judge has also stayed the executions on different grounds, and the state has appealed that ruling.

The state's highest court has not acted on a request that it lift a reprieve granted to one condemned man scheduled to die Monday night.

It has asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to reconsider its decision to put on hold the first of the scheduled lethal injections, of Bruce Earl Ward, after his attorneys argued that he is a diagnosed schizophrenic with no rational understanding of his impending execution. He had been scheduled to die Monday night under the state's plan to put eight inmates to death before the end of the month.

While those court proceedings affect all scheduled executions, a third legal issue centers around the case of Bruce Ward.

State attorneys have appealed most of the orders blocking executions, including Ward's stay.

"Reject the state's request for a rushed analysis of this complex record", they wrote. Sixth Judicial Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen issued the order in response to McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. filing a request that the court prohibit the use of Vercurium Bromide, one of the three drugs used in the execution protocol in Arkansas.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she would seek an immediate review of the state high court's ruling, but did not indicate where.

Actor Johnny Depp joined one rally, alongside a man who he campaigned to free after 18 years on death row.

Arkansas is making preparations for a series of executions that, as of late morning Monday, it is legally barred from carrying out.

The fight in Arkansas, which has not held an execution in 12 years, came after US executions fell to a quarter-century low in 2016 and as several capital-punishment states have been sidelined due to problems with lethal injection drugs and legal questions over their protocols. The judge did not agree with all of the inmates claims, including their argument that a quickened pace of executions would likely lead to a botched execution, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Arkansas hasn't executed an inmate in more than 11 years because of drug shortages and legal challenges. "Equity should, therefore, not permit Appellees to deliberately manipulate the judicial process to evade justice".

The last time two midazolam-using executions were due to be carried out on the same day, in Oklahoma in 2014, the first went so badly that the second was called off.

The inmates lost on some claims, including one that their lawyers couldn't provide adequate counsel under the state's schedule and that the tight timetable itself was improper.

"Now, the time has come to see that justice done".

Lawyers for inmates facing a series of double executions in Arkansas say a federal appeals court should schedule oral arguments as it considers whether to dissolve or preserve the execution stays imposed by a lower court judge. Rutledge said in a status update with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that she believes the state court's ruling was based on a misinterpretation of federal law. The U.S. Supreme Court could be asked to tackle a number of questions before the end of the day and, depending on those answers, Ward could walk to the death chamber at Varner for a 7 p.m. execution. The companies did not disclose which of their drugs Arkansas will use during the executions.