AR Supreme Court grants stay of execution for inmate Stacey Johnson

The company said that it "would not knowingly sell any prescription drug to [Arkansas Department of Correction] for any objective unless the ADC had a current medical license to file". Both men are scheduled for execution on April 20, 2017.

In this Monday evening, April 17, 2017 photo, the sun sets behind clouds over an Arkansas State Police command post outside the Varner Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction near Varner, Ark. Anti-death penalty supporter Randy Gardner, right, embraces Abraham Bonowitz, left.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she will appeal Judge Gray's decision to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

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.

Don Davis and Bruce Ward were supposed to be the first two executed.

Judge Alice Gray ruled in favor of the drug distributor, McKesson Medical-Surgical Incorporated's claim that the state misled the company when the Arkansas Department of Correction purchased the drug, vecuronium bromide.

Lawyers for the state of Arkansas have started their appeal of a decision that would prevent its executioners from using one of the three drugs in its lethal injection protocol. He was found guilty of killing a 25-year-old mother of two in 1993.

Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson are slated for execution Thursday.

Arkansas' attempt to carry out its first execution in almost 12 years wasn't thwarted by the type of liberal activist judge Republicans regularly bemoan here.

They include Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson, who are set for execution Thursday night. Despite the secrecy measure, prison officials have said it will be very hard to find a supplier willing to sell Arkansas midazolam after its current stock expires. West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, the company that makes midazolam, and Fresenius Kabi USA, manufacturer of potassium chloride, another drug used in executions, have also expressed opposition to the use of their drugs for lethal injection.

A state prison official testified that he deliberately ordered the drug previous year in a way that there wouldn't be a paper trail, relying on phone calls and text messages. Griffin said he did tell Jenkins. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions.

The state described the inmates' challenge as a last-minute delay that would "manipulate the judicial process".

Thursday's double execution is scheduled to start around 7 p.m., barring intervention through any of several ongoing lawsuits.

The court may be even more reluctant to do so now with new Justice Neil Gorsuch on board, especially because Gorsuch could be thrust into the uncomfortable position of taking a decisive and public death penalty stand very early in his tenure.

Arkansas had initially scheduled eight inmates to die over an 11-day period in April - the fastest pace of executions in decades. The inmates claim in their request Wednesday that such a compressed schedule "is contrary to the evolving standards of decency".

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.

Attorneys had requested the stay while the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a separate case concerning inmates' access to independent mental health experts. Back-to-back executions set for Monday were indefinitely halted. 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 judge facing re-election, Courtney Goodson, lost her bid for chief justice a year ago after conservative groups blanketed the state with ads attacking her. On Tuesday, a state judge denied the DNA test for Lee. Once her order was in, the state filed a notice that it would appeal. Four of the eight have been granted stays of execution.

The highest courts in Arkansas and the US could put the executions back on track, but for now Arkansas faces an uphill battle to put any inmate to death before the end of April, when one of its lethal injection drugs expires.

The situation is a familiar one for Rebecca Petty, whose daughter's killer was granted a reprieve by federal courts hours before his execution in 2004.

  • Larry Hoffman