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Arkansas Supreme Court Stays 8 Executions

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CN) - The Arkansas Supreme Court on Tuesday granted the state's request to proceed with eight executions, but issued its own stay while constitutional questions are addressed.

In April 2015, the prisoners filed a lawsuit challenging the state's execution method, also known as Act 1096. With the first execution scheduled for Oct. 21, 2015, the prisoners filed an emergency motion on Sept. 30 for summary judgment or in alternative a temporary restraining order until a preliminary hearing could be scheduled.

On Oct. 9, a circuit court granted the restraining order and set a preliminary hearing for March 1, 2016.

Arkansas appealed, filing a writ of certiorari claiming the state court lacked jurisdiction to grant the restraining order.

In a per curiam decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed with the state and effectively lifted the stays of execution.

"The circuit court effectively barred the executive branch from proceeding on the judgments of execution, and it recognized that fact when it stated in the order that it was staying the executions," the state's high court found. "As the circuit court did not have jurisdiction to issue a stay, we grant the petition for writ of certiorari and issue a writ removing the stay of executions issued by the circuit court."

However, the high court also granted the prisoners' request to issue its own stay of the executions if it determined the lower court's restraining order was invalid.

In granting the motion, the court noted that three elements were necessary grant a stay. Those elements included that the claim is only recently ripened, that it is not frivolous and that it cannot be resolved before the execution date.

"The prisoners filed their complaint immediately after Act 1096 was enacted, the complaint contains bona fide constitutional claims, and the first executions are set for Oct. 21, 2015," the Arkansas high court wrote. "We hold that all three of the necessary elements are present in this case. Therefore, we grant the request and stay the executions pending the resolution of the litigation currently pending in the Pulaski County Circuit Court."

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