Arkansas Suffers More Setbacks To Execution Plan

Anti-death penalty supporters Abraham Bonowitz left and Randy Gardner wait near their taped off

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas prepared again Thursday to conduct its first executions since 2005, wary and tired after a series of court decisions gutted its unprecedented plan to put eight men to death before the end of the month.

Arkansas dropped plans to execute a second inmate, Stacey Johnson, on Thursday 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.

Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied five last-minute stays of execution requested by Lee, 51, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge told CNN.

The court's 4-3 decision to stop the execution of Stacey Johnson, 47, brought to four the number of inmates to get at least a temporary reprieve amid an effort by the state to put eight inmates to death in a period of 11 days this month.

Don Davis and Bruce Ward were supposed to be the first two executed.

The first three executions were canceled this week because of court decisions. The Washington Post reports that he was "surprised and disappointed" by the decisions made by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

"Apparently the reason the state chose to proceed with these eight executions is that the "use by" date of the state's execution drug is about to expire", Breyer wrote. Wave after wave of legal challenges followed.

McKesson cited a testimony from Rory Griffin, ADC Deputy Director, in which he said ADC "undertook these actions" knowing that the manufacturer of the drug doesn't permit it to be used in executions.

Arkansas inmates set to die Thursday claim innocence
Arkansas suffers 2 setbacks to multiple execution plan

In that decision, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray blocked the state from using the drug vecuronium bromide, siding with McKesson Corp., which had argued that it sold Arkansas the drug for medical use, not executions.

According to court documents, the ADC acquired the drug under false pretense, telling McKesson that it would strictly be used for medical purposes.

Lee also argues that his trial judge had an affair with an assistant prosecutor and that he was previously represented by a lawyer who showed up drunk at court. A stay remains in place for one of the inmates on an unrelated issue. That would have been the most by a state in such a compressed period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The state filed an amended plan Monday that grants attorneys for the inmates more phone access while on prison grounds.

The legal maneuvers frustrated Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who had set the execution schedule less than two months ago.

The judge filed her order Thursday after the state complained to the Arkansas Supreme Court that she was taking too much time. But the Arkansas Supreme Court vacated that order after the judge, Wendell Griffen, was photographed participating in an anti-death penalty protest on the same day he issued his ruling. The state and its lawyers say the inmates are seeking any legal approach they can find to avoid death. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions.

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.

Just before Lee was put to death, prison officials at the Cummins Unit asked him twice for his final words, but he did not respond.

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