Washington, April 18 (IANS) The US Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the state of Arkansas' request to execute the first prisoner in a tight schedule of eight death sentences before the end of the month, the media reported.
The court, in a brief ruling with no explanation, said it would not lift the Arkansas Supreme Court's order to stop the executions of two inmates who were to be put to death on Monday night, NBC News reported.
The ruling was the latest in a series of legal hurdles that the state has faced since it announced in February its plans to execute eight men in a 10-day span.
But prosecutors surmounted a major roadblock earlier on Monday when the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a district court judge's ruling to stay all of the executions.
Inmates Bruce Ward and Don Davis, the first two men scheduled to die, had requested a delay last week, citing the need to wait for the conclusion of a US Supreme Court case.
Both inmates' lawyers claim that their clients are too mentally impaired to face capital punishment and were not offered proper mental health screening. The state's highest court granted a stay on Monday afternoon.
The court issued its ruling at the very last minute - media witnesses were already seated to document Davis' execution, reports NBC News.
He was already moved to the Cummins Unit where the lethal injection gurney is located. Davis had even been supplied his last meal.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said he was "disappointed" by the ruling.
"While this has been an exhausting day for all involved, we will continue to fight back on last minute appeals and efforts to block justice for the victims' families," Hutchinson said.
There are five more executions scheduled before the end of April.