Arkansas Sidesteps Legal Wrangling, Executes First in List of Inmates

In fact, the court ordered Griffen removed from all death penalty cases after photos emerged of him participating in a rally against the executions. A coroner pronounced Lee dead seven minutes later after opening Lee's eyelids and checking his chest with a stethoscope. Thereafter, Lee filed a petition for post-conviction relief that was denied by the circuit court, and the denial was affirmed by the Arkansas Supreme Court on appeal.

In February 1993, 27-year-old Lee robbed and strangled 26-year-old Debra Reese in her Jacksonville home. On Thursday, after the judge's written order was filed, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, R filed an appeal with the Arkansas Supreme Court seeking to have it stayed.

The state is set to execute Ledell Lee at its Cummins Unit in Grady, which houses the state's death chamber sometime after 8:15 p.m. (0115 GMT). He did not appear to show signs of discomfort, according to Sean Murphy, a reporter with the Associated Press who attended the execution as one of three media witnesses. "Justice was carried out". They say he may be resistant to the lethal injection drug midazolam because of the drugs he is taking for his maladies and could suffer a "tortuous death".

For the first time since 2005, the state of Arkansas used the death penalty on Ledell Lee last night.

The drug manufacturers of midazolam and potassium chloride, two more drugs used by Arkansas in executions, tried to help in McKesson's court battle over the vecuronium bromide. However, at a court hearing on the McKesson lawsuit, department deputy director Rory Griffin said he did tell a McKesson salesman about the intended goal of the drug. McKesson Corp. says the state obtained the drug under false pretenses and that it wants nothing to do with executions. The state has had difficulty acquiring the necessary drugs because of restrictions pharmaceutical companies have imposed. "[The firm was] told the drug would only be used in prison health clinics for its proper medicinal use, as opposed to putting prisoners to death", KUAR's Jacob Kauffman told Morning Edition.

But the first three executions were cancelled because of court rulings.

The state originally set four double executions over an 11-day period in April.

The state has justified the pace of the scheduled executions, saying its supply of another lethal injection drug, the sedative midazolam, expires at the end of April. That's not the case for Arkansas Supreme Court, which is facing a rift within its ranks as well as with the Legislature over a series of decisions preventing the first three executions. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was "surprised and disappointed" by the decision to stay Stacey Johnson's execution.

VARNER, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas was able to conduct its first execution in almost a dozen years despite a flurry of legal challenges that had spared three convicted killers, but courts still could scuttle the remainder the nation's most ambitious death penalty schedule since capital punishment was restored in 1976.

Lee, too, has maintained his innocence in the more than two decades since the killing that landed him on death row.

"The department is prepared to carry out this sentence at this point", Solomon Graves, spokesman for the Department of Corrections, said less than 30 minutes before midnight.

The Arkansas attorney general's office pushed back against the restraining order.

Kauffman reported that the uncertainty is stressful for the victims' families.

  • Larry Hoffman