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Arkansas Supreme Court Grants Stay of Execution for Inmate Stacey Johnson

21 April 2017, 02:51 | Anna Nguyen

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Lee has at least one stay request pending in a federal appeals court. They also asked for the Supreme Court to issue an emergency stay if no decision is made by 7 p.m. Thursday, when the next execution is scheduled.

The state of Arkansas has justified the pace of the scheduled executions because another lethal injection drug, the sedative midazolam, before it expires at the end of April. The first three executions were canceled because of court decisions.

In a 4-3 ruling, the court found that Stacey Johnson should be allowed to prove his innocence based on more DNA testing.

An appeal of Johnson's stay of execution was undecided, the attorney general's spokesman said.

Lawyers for Lee are also petitioning for a reprieve from the state's top court, which has yet to issue a ruling. Legal rulings have put some of the others in doubt.

If Gray's ruling is vacated by the Arkansas Supreme Court or the state obtains a different supply of vecuronium bromide, the executions of four other inmates who have not received individual stays could potentially go forward. Johnson's attorneys have sought more DNA testing that they say could exonerate him. But the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that order Monday, and the inmates appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Arkansas had planned to execute Johnson and Ledell Lee Thursday night. Outside groups and the candidates spent more than $1.6 million previous year on a pair of high court races that were among the most fiercely fought judicial campaigns in the state's history. 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. McKesson Corp. says the state obtained the drug under false pretenses and that it wants nothing to do with executions. The company argued that it would suffer harm financially and to its reputation if the executions were carried out. It's the quickest timetable in Arkansas since 1926, though state officials say waiting more than two decades to put some of the killers to death could hardly be characterized as swift.

Under Arkansas protocol, midazolam is used to sedate the inmate, vecuronium bromide then stops the inmate's breathing and potassium chloride stops the heart.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray on Wednesday granted a temporary restraining order that drug supplier McKesson Corp. filed Tuesday. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions.

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After two scheduled executions were blocked earlier this week, Arkansas shifted its focus to a pair of lethal injections scheduled to take place back-to-back Thursday night at a state prison southeast of Little Rock. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office said she would not appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justices on Thursday rejected a stay request from Ledell Lee. Their one-paragraph order did not elaborate on why.

Lee was set to be executed for the 1993 death of his neighbor Debra Reese, who was struck 36 times with a tire tool her husband had given her for protection.

Governor Asa Hutchinson's seeming disregard for the life of human beings was clear in his statement given Wednesday night in light of the news. In July 2016, McKesson claimed that ADC "leveraged" its medical license to purchase the vecuronium bromide.

Arkansas officials say they can not obtain the drug from another source.

In court papers filed Thursday, they say any new judges assigned to their cases in a state court at Little Rock should have time to become familiar with their pleadings.

Lawyers for the state have complained that the inmates and their lawyers are trying to run out the clock, as one of Arkansas' execution drugs expires at the end of April.

Another ruling Wednesday could scuttle the entire schedule. Wave after wave of legal challenges followed.



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