U.S. supreme court forces Arkansas to halt first in string of executions

(AP Photo/Kelly P. Kissel).

Mr. Lee has always maintained his innocence in the death of Debra Reese.

But Monday evening the American Civil Liberties Union announced it was now representing Lee and requested DNA testing of blood and hair evidence taken from the crime scene that it says was never tested. Wright wrote that he won't substitute his own judgment "for that of the jurors two decades removed".

There was also an appeal aimed at obtaining a stay for Ledell Lee.

In a setback for Ms Rutledge, the United States supreme court denied her request to vacate a stay issued by the Arkansas supreme court on Davis's execution.

One of the inmates set to die, Stacey Johnson, says advanced DNA techniques could show that he didn't kill Carol Heath, a 25-year-old mother of two, in 1993 at her DeQueen apartment. Ward, who was convicted of killing 18-year-old Rebecca Doss in 1990, had received a stay of execution from the state supreme court earlier in the week over his mental health.

The court noted that the inmates "have a long history of filing and dismissing claims to manipulate the judicial process and prevent Arkansas from carrying out their executions".

Arkansas' plan to resume capital punishment after almost 12 years seemed on its way to being blocked by rulings related to the lethal drugs it wants to use, but in the end arguments over the inmates' mental health led to them being spared. The state hasn't executed an inmate in 12 years and there were hopes that Monday would see the resumption of capital punishment before the state's supply of one lethal injection drug expires next month. McKesson discovered that the drug was to be used for executions and demanded the state return the drug, promising a refund.

A 101-page order that a federal judge filed early Saturday to block the executions was reversed Monday by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Originally, Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order against the state until it returned 10 vials of 20mg vecuronium bromide to McKesson.

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As state officials prepare to carry out a double execution Thursday ahead of a drug expiration deadline and despite the setback the U.S. Supreme Court delivered late Monday, lawyers for those condemned men look to be taking a different approach: claiming the prisoners are actually innocent.

In another case, Baker cancelled an April 18 hearing in which the lawyers for Marcel Williams, who is scheduled to be executed April 24, meant to argue that because of his obesity, Arkansas' lethal injection protocol is not likely to kill him and could cause organ damage.

Ledell Lee was moved from prison Tuesday morning and was expected at a 1:30 p.m. hearing in Little Rock.

If Arkansas had its way, the state would have two fewer inmates on death row today. He is also serving prison time for the rapes of a woman and teen from Jacksonville.

Lee also wants his federal case reopened, with his attorneys arguing that Lee has fetal alcohol syndrome, brain damage and intellectual disability. On Tuesday, a state judge denied the DNA test for Lee.

"The attorney general will go back to the state supreme court and address the merits in both cases brought by Ward and Davis", Deere said.

Arkansas officials are vowing to carry out a double execution later this week after the U.S. Supreme Court scuttled the state's plan to resume capital punishment for the first time in almost 12 years by refusing to lift an order minutes before a condemned man was scheduled to die.

Arkansas has faced a barrage of legal challenges, which have so far resulted in three of the executions being halted and criticism that it was acting recklessly.

But shortly before midnight, officials said the full court had declined a request by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to vacate the stay. The next two are scheduled for Thursday.

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