WASHINGTON: A death row inmate in the US state of Arkansas ate what could be his last meal on Monday amid legal wrangling over his fate.
The Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday stayed two executions slated for that evening, but the state’s Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed an application with the US Supreme Court to obtain permission to proceed with the execution of one of them.
If granted approval Don Davis could be the first of several prisoners in the southeastern state executed in the next 10 days, an unprecedented pace.
A US judge had on Saturday already put a broader stay in place on the string of executions, but that decision was reversed Monday in the US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. The state’s Supreme Court also vacated an order blocking the use of the drug vecuronium bromide as part of a lethal-injection protocol.
Those moves came after the state had faced a series of legal setbacks in its plan to rush through the executions, an accelerated schedule it said was necessary because its supply of one of the drugs used, midazolam, was about to expire.
As officials awaited further court action, Davis had his “last meal” at the unit where the execution chamber is located, according to the Arkansas Department of Correction.
He dined on fried chicken, bread, beans, mashed potatoes and strawberry cake. His execution warrant expires at 12:00 am local time (0500 GMT).
The series of legal roadblocks constituted a major setback for Arkansas’s Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, who had pushed for the accelerated executions as the expiration of the state’s supply of midazolam drew near.
The drugs used in lethal injections by some American states — 19 of the 50 no longer execute prisoners — have become increasingly difficult to obtain. Many pharmaceutical companies, particularly in Europe, ban their use for executions.
While lethal injection was meant to be painless, death-penalty opponents say the risk of badly botched executions, with inmates writhing in agony for long minutes, is unacceptably high.
Arkansas’s plan to reduce the number of its death-row prisoners by some 20 percent in the space of a week and a half has drawn sharp protests around the world.
The European Union on Wednesday urged Hutchinson to commute the death-row inmates’ sentences.
Amnesty International called on Arkansas to urgently halt “the conveyor belt of death which it is about to set in motion.”