Arkansas Executes Inmate After Court Rulings Clear Obstacles

Another obstacle was an Arkansas Supreme Court decision giving Johnson time to pursue advanced DNA testing that his lawyers say could clear him.

Lee sat on death row for more than two decades after he was found guilty of beating Debra Reese with a tire iron 36 times before strangling her to death in February 1993 in her home in Jacksonville, Arkansas. This order blocked the execution of Ledell Lee, also originally set for Thursday, along with the seven other men who were originally scheduled to die before the state's supply was set to expire at the end of the month.

The first three executions were cancelled due to various court rulings.

Back-to-back Arkansas executions set for Monday were halted indefinitely. He was the first to die of eight inmates who had been scheduled for executions over 11 days starting last Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Correction said Lee refused any other food, even when told he could have both communion and the regular meal offered to other inmates. Lee showed no signs of consciousness two minutes after the lethal injection, which began at 11:44 p.m.

On Wednesday, an Arkansas circuit court had barred the use of paralytic vecuronium bromide, one of three drugs in the lethal injection cocktail.

Even if Arkansas wins reversals at the state level, the eight inmates who were scheduled to be put to death this month have three requests for reprieves at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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That plan prompted what death penalty experts have said was an unprecedented array of legal filings, and raised questions about USA death chamber protocols and lethal injection drug mixes. The court ruled 4-3 to stay Johnson's execution and remand the case to the trial court for a hearing on new DNA evidence, without explanation, although two justices in the minority released opinions that criticized the majority.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Rutledge and prosecutors claimed the last-minute legal proceedings were a calculated effort by defense attorneys to run out the clock and stymie the executions.

Death row inmate Ledell Lee has been executed in Arkansas, the State's first in 12 years, shortly after the US Supreme Court denied emergency motions in his case, the media reported on Friday.

The company said it had been misled because the state had never said it planned to use the drug in executions. A temporary stay remains in place while the U.S. Supreme Court considers his appeals. The state's supply of that drug expires April 30.

"Through the manipulation of the judicial system, these men continue to torment the victims' families in seeking, by any means, to avoid their just punishment", the prosecutors said in a joint statement issued yesterday.

Lawyers for the state have complained that the inmates are filing court papers just to use up the time remaining on Arkansas' midazolam supply.

"ADC (the Arkansas Department of Correction) personnel used an existing medical license, which is to be used only to order products with legitimate medical uses, and an irregular ordering process to obtain the vecuronium via phone order with a McKesson salesperson", the brief said. The company had argued that the drug, vecuronium bromide, had been purchased under false pretenses.

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