Arkansas prepares for 1st double execution in United States since 2000

The inmate's execution was supposed to be one in a line of eight prisoners to be executed over an 11-day period, which would be the most conducted by any state in such a compressed window of time since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Two more inmates are set to die on Monday, and one on 27 April.

Arkansas executed convicted murderer Ledell Lee, 51, on Thursday April 20, 2017.

A vigil took place outside Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson's mansion protesting the execution on Thursday night. The two sides have been waging battles in state and federal courts over these lethal injections. "It is inconceivable that this court, with the facts and the law well established, stays these executions over speculation that the (U.S.) Supreme Court might change the law".

Arkansas executed four men in an eight-day period in 1960.

Lee, who had consistently maintained his innocence, was seeking DNA tests that his lawyers said could prove his claim. But the plan was criticized from a number of different quarters, including by anti-death penalty advocates and even former executioners.

The state of Arkansas has justified the pace of the scheduled executions because another lethal injection drug, the sedative midazolam, expires at the end of April.

About 30 minutes after the high court's ruling, Lee was pronounced dead.

The execution is part of Arkansas' legally contested plan to execute eight inmates by the end of the month.

Arkansas Prisons Director Wendy Kelley has said there is no way to obtain more midazolam or vecuronium bromide (another lethal injection drug).

"Apparently the reason the state made a decision to proceed with these eight executions is that the "use by" date of the state's execution drug is about to expire", Breyer wrote.

Inmates' attorneys also failed in efforts to block the executions based on concerns about midazolam, which has been used in flawed executions in other states. According to KUAR, Little Rock Arkansas' NPR affiliate, Arkansas Department of Corrections' spokesman Soloman Graves said he didn't think this was a problem.

The execution went forward as the U.S. Supreme Court rejected 11th-hour appeals from his lawyers, but one justice expressed reservations about what has been called by critics, the state's "rush" to execute the inmates.

McKesson said it wants nothing to do with executions and was disappointed in the court's ruling. Justice Samuel Alito, who is responsible for emergency appeals from Arkansas, initially ordered a temporary hold to allow consideration of new filings by Lee. He was sentenced to death for the 1993 killing of Carol Heath, 25. The court's liberal wing-Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan-dissented, each voting to grant at least one of the stays.

Death-row inmates, their attorneys and civil-liberties advocates have criticized the frantic pace, with former corrections officials joining them in saying they worry that it heightens the odds of a mistake. Three of those executions have been blocked; three others are scheduled for next week. He stated that the Governor had stated that, "justice had been carried out and the victim's family now has closure".

  • Larry Hoffman