Arkansas conducts first execution since 2005, plans 3 more

22 April, 2017, 01:28 | Author: Jonathon Greene
  • Ledell Lee appears in Pulaski County Circuit Court for a hearing in which lawyers argued to stop his execution which is scheduled for Thursday. Unless a court steps in Lee and Stacey Johnson are set for

Convicted murderer Ledell Lee was executed in Arkansas on Thursday shortly before midnight, the state's first death row execution since 2005.

Another Arkansas prisoner, Stacey Johnson - who had also been scheduled to die Thursday - was granted a stay by the state Supreme Court on Wednesday, a reprieve that stemmed from a bid to have an evidentiary hearing connected to his request for DNA testing. The state's supply of that drug expires April 30.

Initially, Arkansas had meant to put Lee and seven other men to death in the span of just 11 days, racing against the clock of the expiration of one of the drugs in the state's chemical execution cocktail.

Lee began receiving the lethal injection at 11:44 p.m. and was pronounced deceased at 11:56 p.m.

The 51-year-old was convicted and sentenced to death for the sexual assault and murder of Debra Reese in 1993, but Lee has always maintained his innocence.

The McKesson Corporation, which supplied the drug, had accused the Arkansas Department of Correction of failing to say it planned to use the drug for executions.

Less than an hour before his death warrant was set to expire, the United States Supreme Court denied a stay of execution to Lee in a 5-4 vote. "When I set the dates, I knew there could be delays in one or more of the cases, but I expected the courts to allow the juries' sentences to be carried out since each case has been reviewed multiple times by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed the guilt of each".

The US Supreme Court denied the petitions.

"Unless the prisoner is unconscious, then drugs two and three will cause pain - torturous punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and state guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment", said Jeffrey Rosenzweig, an attorney for three of the inmates. The state originally scheduled an unprecedented eight executions within an 11-day window, but several are now tied up in the courts. Four of the inmates have received individual stays of execution.

The inmates said the state's drug protocol, which includes the controversial sedative midazolam, puts them at risk of an unnecessarily painful death.

The use of vecuronium bromide has also faced legal pushback, with McKesson Medical-Surgical - a distributor for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer - accusing Arkansas of concealing its plans to use the drug for capital punishment.

"We believe we have done all we can do at this time to recover our product", the company said in a statement lamenting the ruling. The first three executions were canceled because of court decisions.

The previous evening, Pulaski County Judge Alice Gray had prohibited the state from "using or disposing of" the vecuronium bromide it bought from a unit of drugmaker McKesson Corp MCK, +1.15%.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge noted that the family "has waited more than 24 years to see justice done". An assistant attorney general in Arkansas said in a court proceeding in 2015 that the third-party supplier of the state's midazolam agreed to the sale in return for anonymity despite the supplier's contract with the manufacturer forbidding the sale.

Inmate Ledell Lee is shown in this booking photo provided March 21, 2017.

Lee's execution prompted immediate criticism.

Hikma also wrote letters to the Correction Department previous year seeking the return of its drugs. 'This Easter, let us ask the Lord for the grace to infuse our justice with mercy, ' it says.

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