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Arkansas execution delayed as Supreme Court refuses to overrule state court

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- An Arkansas death row inmate who had been scheduled for execution Monday was temporarily spared after decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court and Arkansas Supreme Court.

On Monday night, Don Davis had been given what was to be his last meal at the Cummins Unit, the Arkansas prison that houses the state's execution chamber. As midnight approached, his fate remained unclear pending further court action.

Davis had been one of eight Arkansas inmates scheduled to die this month.

His attorney sought a stay of execution, and on Monday, the Arkansas Supreme Court granted a delay in the executions of Davis and another inmate, Bruce Ward.

But Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule the state court to proceed with Davis' execution.

As minutes ticked toward midnight when Davis' execution warrant was to expire, the U.S. high court issued a statement: "The application to vacate the stay of execution of sentence of death entered by the Arkansas Supreme Court on April 17, 2017, presented to Justice (Samuel) Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied."

The execution would have been the first in Arkansas since 2005.

Davis was among eight Arkansas inmates facing execution in 11 days in a packed schedule set by the state. The number of executions in such a short amount of time had been described as "unprecedented" by a group that monitors U.S. executions, and it unleashed a flurry of legal actions.

Arkansas had set the schedule because its supply of a lethal injection drug, midazolam, expires on May 1.

Rutledge said the court's decision is "heartbreaking that the family of Jane Daniel has once again seen justice delayed," referring to the victim in Davis' case.

He had been sentenced to death for capital murder.

"Davis was convicted of his crimes in 1992, and my office took every action it could today to see that justice was carried out. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court has the final say and has decided not to lift the stay at this time," she said in a statement.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson can set a new execution date for him, but it can't happen for another 30 days, so Davis wouldn't be executed before the state's drug supply expires at the end of April.

Hutchinson expressed disappointment but vowed to continue efforts.

"While this has been an exhausting day for all involved, tomorrow we will continue to fight back on last-minute appeals and efforts to block justice for the victims' families," he said in a statement.