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Court Rulings Block 2 Scheduled Executions Today In Arkansas
20 April 2017, 10:09 | Gladys Abbott
Arkansas inmates set to die Thursday claim innocence
The court ruled that Stacey Johnson could pursue his requests for enhanced DNA testing in hopes of proving his innocence in the 1993 rape and killing of Carol Heath.
Another inmate, Ledell Lee, is also facing execution on Thursday but his appeal for further DNA testing was denied.
The Associated Press reported that "Judd Deere, a spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said the state will appeal that ruling". The inmates claim in their request Wednesday that such a compressed schedule "is contrary to the evolving standards of decency".
As lawyers for condemned inmates press the case for delay in state and lower federal courts, the Supreme Court receives information about developments and, eventually, copies of those decisions. Its lawyers filed paperwork with the state Supreme Court on Thursday morning asking it to order her to submit a formal order.
"I just feel like, once again, these families have been re-victimized", said Petty, now a state representative, who said she was stunned by the latest ruling. 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.
While both of Wednesday's rulings could be overturned, Arkansas now faces an uphill battle to execute any inmates before the end of April, when another of its drugs expires. Lee avoided execution after Circuit Court Judge Alice Gray issued a restraining order that barred the state from usingvecuronium bromide purchased last summer from McKesson Corporation, the nation's largest drug distributor.
The legal issue that halted Monday's executions for Ward and Davis hinged on a separate, broader case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning a defendant's access to independent experts, and attorneys say the justices' ruling could potentially affect the inmates' criminal convictions.
Preparations for the lethal injections, scheduled for Thursday night at 7 p.m. CDT (0000 GMT) and 8:15 p.m. CDT (0100 GMT on Friday), were underway, prisons spokesman Solomon Graves said.
A state prison official testified that he deliberately ordered the drug a year ago in a way that there would not be a paper trail, relying on phone calls and text messages, the AP news agency reported. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions. 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.
The court's decision was the second time Don Davis has been granted a reprieve shortly before execution - he came within hours of death in 2010.
Rosenzweig also represents two other inmates scheduled to die this month - Jack Jones and Kenneth Williams.
Last week, a federal judge in Little Rock blocked the executions, citing concerns with the sedative midazolam that has been used in problematic executions in other states. The ruling was the latest setback from a high court that has consistently impeded this deeply Republican state's effort to resume capital punishment in recent years. 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.
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