Arkansas conducts first execution since 2005, plans 3 more

Arkansas has said it will appeal a court ruling that bars the USA state's use of a lethal injection drug and effectively puts a stop to its plans to execute eight prisoners in 11 days.

The highest courts in Arkansas and the US could put the executions back on track, but for now Arkansas faces an uphill battle to put any inmate to death before the end of April, when one of its lethal injection drugs expires.

The schedule has been attributed to the expiration date of Arkansas' supply of midazolam, the first drug administered in the three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections.

The legal issue that halted Monday's executions for Ward and Davis hinged on a separate, broader case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning a defendant's access to independent experts, and attorneys say the justices' ruling could potentially affect the inmates' criminal convictions. On Wednesday, an Arkansas circuit court had barred the use of paralytic vecuronium bromide, one of three drugs in the lethal injection cocktail.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed responses with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit regarding inmates Lee and Johnson's requests to stay their respective executions. The U.S. Supreme Court then opted not to lift the stay for Davis.

Arkansas officials are vowing to press ahead despite the setback to plans to resume capital punishment after a 12-year hiatus.

The 51-year-old was put on death row for the 1993 murder of his neighbour Debra Reese, who Lee struck 36 times with a wheel wrench her husband gave her for protection. McKesson Corp. says the state obtained the drug under false pretenses and that it wants nothing to do with executions. 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.

"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. The filing says: "As is oft said, justice delayed is justice denied".

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AMPEZZAN: Generally speaking, the U.S. Supreme Court does not overturn a lower court's decision this late in the game.

"The use of the medicines for lethal injections creates a public-health risk by undermining the safety and supply of lifesaving medicines", Searcy attorney Brett Watson wrote on behalf of the companies. Justice Stephen Breyer said in a dissent he was troubled by Arkansas' push to execute the inmates before its supply of midazolam expires.

His execution followed a flurry of court rulings Thursday, capped by the US Supreme Court's denial of multiple requests for stays of execution.

Judge there put a - an injunction on the state's - 1 of the 3 lethal injection drugs that the state planned to use.

The United States Supreme Court lifted the stay of execution almost 30 minutes before Lee's death warrant was set to expire.

The company moved over the weekend to withdraw its lawsuit after a federal judge stayed all of the state's executions. Lee was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m., Arkansas Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelly said.

Arkansas' attempt to carry out its first execution in almost 12 years wasn't thwarted by the type of liberal activist judge Republicans regularly bemoan here, but instead by a state Supreme Court that's been the focus of expensive campaigns by conservative groups to reshape the judiciary.

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