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Arkansas executes prisoner after battle over lethal drug
21 April 2017, 09:55 | Gladys Abbott
Midazolam, which Arkansas hadn't used in an execution, is the first of the three drugs administered to sedate the inmate.
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Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to death for murdering his neighbor, Debra Reese, in a Little Rock suburb in 1993, was pronounced dead at 11:56pm central time at the Cummins Unit prison in southern Arkansas.
The State of Arkansas has executed Ledell Lee, who was convicted for the murder of Debra Reese in 1993. Officers arrested Lee an hour after the murder on February 9, 1993 after he used some cash that he stole from Reese to pay a bill at a store.
The battle over efforts by Arkansas to execute eight inmates in 11 days returned to the Supreme Court this evening.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear five last-minute appeals by Lee's attorneys to stay his execution, which began at 11:44 p.m. CT (12:44 a.m. ET).
The last execution carried out in Arkansas was in 2005.
Three more men are now slated to die before the end of April. The remaining six could still theoretically be put to death this month, though two of those inmates have received stays that the state hasn't yet appealed.
Lee was offered a choice for his last meal before execution.
Lee did not make a final statement.
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Lee's attorneys have filed challenges on a number of fronts, but so far, courts have ruled against the inmate. But that was abandoned when a state court blocked one of those lethal injections, and officials instead focused exclusively on plans to execute Lee, the Chicago Tribune reported.
"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. Without the drug, the state couldn't carry out any executions. The supplier McKesson Corp. has said it sold Arkansas the drug for use in inmate health care, not executions.
The legal delays in the executions frustrated Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other state officials. The state's elected prosecutors also criticised the roadblocks to the execution plans.
Gray said that drug, vecuronium bromide, "was essentially obtained illegally by the state", NPR member station KUAR's Jacob Kauffman told Morning Edition.
But despite Lee's lawyers argument that he had a mental disability that had never been properly evaluated, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied his request for a stay. Justice Stephen Breyer said in a dissent that he was troubled by Arkansas' push to execute the inmates before its supply of midazolam expires. Hutchinson said that it was not his preference, but that it is necessary because one of the state's lethal-injection drugs will expire at the end of the month. "In my view, that factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random", he wrote.
One doctor testified that being given vecuronium bromide without sedation and ventilation would be equivalent to being held underwater.
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