Arkansas Executes An Inmate For First Time In Almost A Decade

VARNER, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas carried out its first execution in almost a dozen years despite a flurry of legal challenges that had spared three convicted killers, but courts still could scuttle the remainder of the nation's most ambitious death penalty schedule since capital punishment was restored in 1976.

The state has executed an inmate for the first time in almost in decade, as part of its plan to execute several men on death row.

"The governor knows the right thing was done tonight", J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, told the AP.

The Arkansas Department of Correction reported that Lee requested Holy Communion as his last meal Thursday night. The eight executions would have been the most by a state in such a compressed period since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Morrison, who represented Lee with the ACLU, added that the 51-year-old Lee "proclaimed his innocence" for 24 years, until his execution. One denied a stay of execution to Williams, saying that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction in the case.

Two more inmates are set to die on Monday, and one on April 27.

He was strapped to a gurney, and declined the opportunity to make a final statement before he died. Williams is obese and diabetic. At least one high court justice expressed reservations about the state's push to execute the inmates before its drug expired.

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Lawyers for Jones' say he suffers from diabetes and is on insulin, has high blood pressure, neuropathy and had one leg amputated below the knee.

Justice Stephen Breyer said that was not an adequate reason to rush. McKesson Corp says the state obtained the drug under false pretences and that it wants nothing to do with executions.

After the setback in a lower court, both inmates on Sunday asked the appeals court to halt their executions based on their poor health. Lee showed no signs of consciousness two minutes after the lethal injection, which began at 11:44 p.m.

Midazolam was introduced as a replacement for pentobarbital after its manufacturer banned its use in executions.

The makers of the other two drugs being used in the process - midazolam and potassium chloride - were blocked from intervening in the case.

"I don't know what the state is thinking, but just because this one appears to have gone off without a hitch doesn't meant that there are not problems", said Dale Baich, an assistant federal public defender who witnessed Joseph Rudolph Wood's slow death in a lethal injection that involved midazolam in 2014 in Arizona. Lawyers for the state have complained that the inmates are filing court papers just to run out the clock. It's also posing a challenge for the state's attorneys, who have been fighting on multiple fronts. He said when a sentence is handed down, the people of Arkansas expect it to be carried out.

Gallini said trying to salvage the rest of the execution schedule could invite even more intense legal battles "because what started out as kind of a press release and a decision has ballooned" into trending hashtags and worldwide news coverage.

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