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Arkansas Executes Inmate Ledell Lee in First Execution Since 2005

21 April 2017, 09:34 | Gladys Abbott

Arkansas Executes Inmate Ledell Lee in First Execution Since 2005

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Meanwhile, the Arkansas Supreme Court on Wednesday granted a stay of execution to inmate Stacey Johnson, who had been set to die Thursday.

He was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. local time, four minutes before the warrant for his death was set to expire. Lee did not make a final statement.

Lee was convicted of beating Debra Reese to death with a tire iron in 1993.

Previous year the number of Americans executed fell to 20, compared to the 98 who were put to death in 1999.

Lawyers for Lee, who had spent more than 20 years on death row, had filed numerous motions in various courts ahead of the lethal injection that had put the process on hold.

Another inmate, Ledell Lee, was scheduled for execution Thursday night and has a similar request pending for more DNA testing, though a Pulaski County judge ruled against him Tuesday.

A spokesman for Arkansas attorney general Leslie Rutledge said the state was reviewing its options; the state can ask the Arkansas supreme court to reconsider its decision or appeal to the US Supreme Court, which on Monday opted not to vacate a separate stay involving inmate Don Davis, who had been scheduled to be executed on Monday night. Another inmate scheduled for execution next week has received a stay.

The cases have drawn huge criticism from campaigners who are seeking to abolish the death penalty. Shane Claiborne, the evangelical activist and speaker, has just published a book about the death penalty and was calling for Christians to contact their representatives to prevent the execution.

So far, three condemned prisoners have been spared the execution schedule set by Republican governor Asa Hutchinson, Jason McGehee on Friday, and Bruce Ward and Davis on Monday.

By reactivating the death chamber, Arkansas has bucked a national trend which has seen a steady decline in the number of death sentences and of executions.

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I pray this lawful execution helps bring closure for the Reese family. Arkansas Department of Correction Deputy Director Rory Griffin said he didn't keep records of the texts, but McKesson salesman Tim Jenkins did.

The state of Arkansas has executed an inmate for the first time in 12 years.

Stacey Johnson claims that advanced DNA techniques could show that he didn't kill Carol Heath, a 25-year-old mother of two, in 1993 at her southwest Arkansas apartment.

On Thursday evening, new U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the majority in ruling 5-4 to deny the stay of execution sought by Lee and the other inmates.

While the latest court rulings could be overturned, Arkansas now faces an uphill battle to execute any inmates before the end of April, when one of its lethal injection drugs expires.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer said he took issue with the state trying to use the drugs before their expiration date.

"Apparently the reason the state made a decision to proceed with these eight executions is that the "use by" date of the state's execution drug is about to expire.In my view, that factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random", Justice Stephen Breyer wrote.

Hikma, the British manufacturers of the drug, have opposed its use in executions, and the makers of other drugs have tried to halt the executions in the courts, arguing that the prison authorities were unauthorised to use their products. The AP says he "showed no apparent signs of suffering" and "lost consciousness quickly".

Attention will now turn to other impending executions in Arkansas. Read my full statement following tonight's execution. He said on Wednesday he was "both surprised and disappointed" by the delays.

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