Arkansas execution plan again thrown into doubt

Arkansas execution plan again thrown into doubt

The Arkansas Supreme Court has denied another stay request from a condemned killer facing execution Thursday night.

Arkansas plans to execute Lee and another inmate, Stacey Johnson, on Thursday night.

It takes five votes to get most things done at the court, including imposing or lifting a stay of execution.

"We are grateful and relieved" at the ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court regarding Stacey Johnson", said Innocence Project senior staff attorney Nina Morrison, whose group is defending Johnson. Rutledge's office said the attorney general would not appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a 4-3 ruling late Wednesday afternoon, the state's highest court issued a stay for Johnson and ordered a new hearing in lower court for Johnson to make his claims.

It's unclear whether the new execution obstacles would have any political fallout for the court. Legal rulings have put some of the others in doubt.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas prepared again Thursday to conduct its first executions since 2005, wary and tired after a series of court decisions gutted its unprecedented plan to put eight men to death before the end of the month.

Inmates Bruce Ward (top row L to R), Don Davis, Ledell Lee, Stacy Johnson, Jack Jones (bottom row L to R), Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams and Jason Mcgehee are shown in these booking photo provided. Lee is fighting in federal and state courts for a similar stay. Legal rulings have put the others in doubt.

"Apparently the reason the state chose 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.

McKesson Corp., a San Francisco-based medical supply company, "claimed that the state deliberately circumvented them to use the drugs for executions". The state concedes the pair will not be put to death this month.

Tim Jenkins of McKesson says Griffin never told him the drug would be used for executions. The company argued that it would suffer harm financially and to its reputation if the executions were carried out. Both men are scheduled for execution on April 20, 2017.

This story has been corrected to show that the inmate's name is Ledell Lee, not Lendell Lee. Their one-paragraph order did not elaborate on why.

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"When I set the dates, I knew there could be delays in one or more of the cases", he said.

Like many USA states, Arkansas has struggled to find the drugs it needs to carry out executions.

The state originally set four double executions over an 11-day period in April. The drug, which paralyzes the prisoner, is the second step in the state's three-drug cocktail for the procedure.

Circuit Judge Alice Gray has stopped the state's use of vecuronium bromide until she can determine the rightful owner.

She backed a lawsuit by drugs company McKesson, the supplier of the muscle relaxant vecuronium bromide.

In her order, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker flagged two issues: the use of the midazolam and inmates' access to their attorneys on the days of their executions.

Back-to-back Arkansas executions set for Monday were halted indefinitely. Hutchinson says he wants a clear explanation from the court majority as to how they came to the decision.

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. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions. The state and its lawyers say the inmates are seeking any legal approach they can find to avoid death.

The possibility that justices could continue sparing the lives of the remaining killers scheduled to die this month has left death penalty supporters including Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson frustrated and critical of the high court.

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.

A death row inmate scheduled to be executed in an Arkansas prison today was granted a stay by the highest court in the U.S. state hours before his lethal injection, his attorneys said.

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