Convicted Murderer Put to Death in Arkansas; First Execution Since 2005

Arkansas cannot use drug needed for any scheduled executions, judge rules

The state's plan prompted an unprecedented flurry of legal filings that argued the process should be halted, citing problems with U.S. death chamber protocols and lethal injection drug mixes.

He was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. local time, four minutes before the warrant for his death was set to expire.

The state originally set eight executions to occur over an 11-day period in April, which 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.

Lee was convicted and sentenced to death for beating Debra Reese to death with a tyre iron in 1993.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said that a federal appellate court had "d".

But witnesses reported no apparent glitches or signs of suffering from Lee.

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. "Justice was carried out".

"We've established that modern DNA testing methods can prove Mr Johnson's innocence, and Arkansas law clearly established that Mr Johnson is entitled to that testing", said Karen Thompson, a staff attorney with the Innocence Project, which filed the appeal along with Johnson's attorney. "While reasonable people can disagree on whether death is an appropriate form of punishment, no one should be executed when there is a possibility that person is innocent".

Morrison, who represented Lee with the ACLU, added that the 51-year-old Lee "proclaimed his innocence" for 24 years, until his execution.

The US state of Arkansas executed its first inmate in more than a decade on Thursday, overcoming a flurry of legal challenges to the state's plan to kill eight death row prisoners by lethal injection before the end of the month.

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Johnson won a reprieve for a hearing on DNA testing. The order was requested by McKesson Medical-Surgical, Inc, which has accused the state of obtaining the drug, pancuronium bromide, under false pretenses.

Gray sided with McKesson Corp., which had argued that it sold Arkansas the drug for medical use, not executions, and that it would suffer harm financially and to its reputation if the executions were carried out. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, which came up at Wednesday's court hearing, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions.

Arkansas suffered two more legal setbacks Wednesday in its unprecedented plan to carry out multiple executions this month when the state supreme court halted one and a judge later ruled that the state can not use one of its drugs in any executions.

Gray's decision had effectively stayed all scheduled executions. But the decision by Arkansas' high court allowed for Lee's execution on Thursday night.

Ledell Lee's execution was among eight originally scheduled before a lethal injection drug expires on April 30 - a plan which would have been the country's most ambitious since the death penalty was restored in 1976. The drug is one of three used in Arkansas' lethal injection protocol.

Another execution had been scheduled for Thursday but was stayed by the state Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was "surprised and disappointed" by the decision to stay Stacey Johnson's execution.

"When I set the dates, I knew there could be delays in one or more of the cases, but I expected the courts to allow the juries' sentences to be carried out, since each case had been reviewed multiple times", Hutchinson said in a statement.

In its 4-3 ruling in the Johnson case, the state's highest court followed the same split it did on Monday, when it halted two other executions involving different inmates, Bruce Ward and Don Davis.

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