The unprecedented pace of executions sought by the state stems from a practical dilemma - its supply of midazolam, one of three drugs used in its lethal injection procedure, is set to expire at the end of the month. The director of the Department of Corrections was so concerned at the shortage of volunteers that she asked the Little Rock Rotary Club if it could provide some.

"Even assuming a risk of pain from the current method", the inmates did not provide a "known and available alternative" to Arkansas' execution method that would significantly reduce that risk, the opinion says. Supporters have said it is effective, and the U.S. Supreme Court has authorized its use.

Hutchinson said he would meet with the state's lawyers and its prison officials on Monday to discuss Arkansas' next moves as it attempts to conduct executions for the first time since 2005.

A member of the United Methodist Church, Copley has been an outspoken critic of the death penalty and had attended a rally that day, in which the actor Johnny Depp joined hundreds at the Arkansas state Capitol calling on Hutchinson to halt the executions, when he learned about Griffen's ruling.

Justices in a 4-3 decision granted stays Monday afternoon for Don Davis and Bruce Ward.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted the execution of Ward, one of two inmates facing lethal injection Monday under the state's multiple execution plan.

A different federal judge has issued a stay for one of the eight condemned prisoners and the state Supreme Court has issued one for another inmate. Davis had filed his own legal challenges about his mental competencies - his lawyer said Davis has an IQ of 70 - but a federal judge rejected his stay request on Easter Sunday. Baker opted for the test developed by the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Baker's ruling prompted McKesson Corp., a medical supply company, to ask Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen to vacate his Friday order blocking the executions over the company's claims the vecuronium bromide was sold to the state for medical purposes, not lethal injection.

On Friday, the Arkansas Supreme Court halted Ward's execution after lawyers for the inmate argued he was mentally incompetent. But they are on a tight schedule: Executions were scheduled to begin Monday night, and if the legal proceedings take more than two weeks, the midazolam supply will have expired before any of the executions can take place.

A federal judge on Saturday temporarily blocked plans by the state to push through the executions, claiming that Arkansas' rush to execute is reckless and unconstitutional.

Fresenius Kabi USA and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals Corp - filed a brief in a lawsuit by the seven inmates which is aimed at preventing the executions.

"The Attorney General is considering options as to how to proceed", Judd Deere, a spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said in a statement. The Attorney General's office plans to appeal the decision to the Eighth Circuit. "After hearing the evidence ... the court is compelled to stay these executions", she said.

"138 people have been released from death row in the USA following a review of their convictions, it is something which has been used to kill innocent people in the past".

No state has ever put as many inmates to death in as short a period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Despite some legal setbacks for the state, it was still possible the executions could begin at 7 p.m. Monday.