Arkansas suffers 2 setbacks to multiple execution plan

Ausiliatrice Cristiano
Aprile 21, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for Lee's execution less than an hour before his death warrant was set to expire, rejecting a round of last-minute appeals from the condemned inmate's attorneys.

His execution was Arkansas' first since 2005.

The Arkansas attorney general's office says it won't appeal an order halting the execution of Stacey Johnson. Unless a court steps in, Lee and Stacey Johnson are set for execution Thursday night.

Lee showed no signs of consciousness two minutes after the start of his execution, which began at 11:44 p.m. Legal rulings have put some of the others in doubt.

Two Arkansas inmates set to die this week in a double execution filed more legal challenges Wednesday, but so far the pair is hitting roadblocks as a judge weighs a new attempt to prevent the state from using one of its lethal injection drugs in what would be the state's first executions in almost a dozen years. His execution was halted after his attorneys sought additional DNA tests they say could exonerate him. The Innocence Project filed the appeal along with Johnson's attorney.

VARNER, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas overcame a flurry of court challenges that derailed three other executions, putting to death an inmate for the first time in almost a dozen years as part of a plan that would have been the country's most ambitious since the death penalty was restored in 1976. Legal rulings have put the others in doubt. The pharmaceutical companies say there is a public health risk if their drugs are diverted for use in executions, and that the state's possession of the drugs violates rules within their distribution networks.

Inmates can spend years, or even decades, appealing their convictions and death sentences in state and federal courts. A stay remains in place for one of the inmates on an unrelated issue.

"While this ruling once against brings temporary relief, Arkansas continues to show no regard for human rights by rushing prisoners to their deaths", said Amnesty International's James Clark in a statement.

"McKesson was duped. into providing the drugs", lawyer John Tull said, arguing the company could see its reputation and bottom line suffer.

Arkansas had scheduled eight executions over an 11-day period before the end of April, when its supply of one lethal injection drug expires.

Lawyers for Lee, who had spent more than 20 years on death row, had filed numerous motions in various courts ahead of the lethal injection that had put the process on hold. Their one-paragraph order did not elaborate on why.

Lee is one of two inmates who had been set to die Thursday night. "No state has ever conducted eight executions" over an 11-day period, according to Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

She backed a lawsuit by drugs company McKesson, the supplier of the muscle relaxant vecuronium bromide. Reese was found dead in her home in Jacksonville, Arkansas, where she had been strangled and beaten with a small wooden bat her husband gave her for protection.

The judge facing re-election, Courtney Goodson, lost her bid for chief justice previous year after conservative groups blanketed the state with ads attacking her.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said he was disappointed by the latest setback to the execution schedule.

Back-to-back Arkansas executions set for Monday were halted indefinitely.

"I know the families of the victims are anxious for a clear-cut explanation from the majority as to how they came to this conclusion and how there appears to be no end to the court's review", Hutchinson said.

On Friday, a different Pulaski County judge issued a similar ruling on vecuronium bromide. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions. In that order, the state Supreme Court did not elaborate on its reasoning.

But while Goodson voted to stay the three executions, so did the conservative-backed candidate who beat her in the chief justice race, Dan Kemp.

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