Arkansas poised to carry out first execution since 2005

21 Avril, 2017, 18:47 | Author: Claudine Rigal
  • Arkansas inmates set to die Thursday claim innocence

Unless a court steps in, Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson are set for execution Thursday night, and state prison officials have already moved them from death row to the nearby prison that houses the death chamber.

Another day of intense legal wrangling kept Lee, who was sentenced to death more than two decades ago, alive until just before his death warrant expired at midnight.

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.

Tim Jenkins of McKesson says Griffin never told him the drug would be used for executions.

Arkansas dropped plans to execute a second inmate, Stacey Johnson, on the same day after the state Supreme Court said it wouldn't reconsider his stay, which was issued so Johnson could seek more DNA tests in hopes of proving his innocence. But Arkansas has faced a wave of legal challenges.

McKesson Medical Surgical Inc. argued its vecuronium bromide was intended only for medical purposes, not executions, and that the Arkansas Department of Corrections "misled" the company when it purchased the drug, according to a court brief. "Harm that could not be addressed by (monetary) damages", Gray said in a ruling from the bench.

In addition, though, multiple federal appeals are pending on issues relating to the state's use of the sedative midazolam in its three-drug protocol, the clemency process being used by the state in conjunction with the April scheduled executions, and the timing of the executions themselves.

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What this highlights is how hard it has become for states to kill by lethal injection, with botched executions and drug companies saying they do not want their products associated with the practice. Johnson's execution was stayed on Wednesday by the state high court. But the Arkansas Supreme Court vacated Griffen's ruling days after he participated in an anti-death penalty rally and reassigned some of his cases.

A state prison official testified that he deliberately ordered the drug previous year in a way that there wouldn't be a paper trail, relying on phone calls and text messages. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, which came up at a court hearing Wednesday, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions.

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.

"The family of the late Debra Reese, who was brutally murdered with a tire thumper after being targeted because she was home alone, has waited more than 24 years to see justice done", Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement. In this Monday evening, April 17, 2017 photo, the sun sets behind clouds over an Arkansas State Police command post outside the Varner Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson in February ordered the executions to be scheduled before the end of April. It then voted to allow the state to proceed with the execution. Before the written order was even filed, however, the state asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to step in.

A judge in Pulaski County on Tuesday rejected the request for DNA testing from inmate Ledell Lee.

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