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21 April 2017, 01:55 | Marion Schneider
Even if Arkansas wins reversals at the state level, the eight inmates who had been scheduled to be put to death this month have three requests for reprieves at the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Because [Lee], like Stacey Johnson, has never gotten a hearing on his DNA petition, and has maintained his innocence for over two decades, we are hopeful that the Arkansas Supreme Court will also grant him a stay and give him a hearing on the DNA evidence", said the Innocence Project's Nina Morrison, who is one of Lee's attorneys. But the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that order Monday, and the inmates appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Outside groups and the candidates spent more than $1.6 million a year ago on a pair of high court races that were among the most fiercely fought judicial campaigns in the state's history.
Arkansas prepared to execute two inmates on Thursday despite court rulings that have stymied the USA state's plan to carry out multiple lethal injections before one of the drugs it uses expires at the end of April. The first two executions were canceled because of court decisions, and legal rulings have put the other six in doubt.
A judge in Arkansas has blocked the state from using its supply of a drug used in lethal injections, due to the drug supplier objecting that the state misleadingly obtained its product.
Arkansas suffered two more setbacks in its unprecedented bid to carry out eight executions this month with the state's highest court granting a reprieve to an inmate scheduled to die on Thursday and a county court saying the state can not use one of its lethal injection drugs in any executions.
The McKesson Corp unit said in a lawsuit that it would not have sold the drug to the Arkansas prison system had it known it would be used in executions.
Arkansas says one of two executions scheduled for Thursday night won't go ahead.
A stay remains in place for one of the inmates on an unrelated issue. The state concedes the pair will not be put to death this month.
The state high court decision was one of two setbacks Wednesday to Arkansas' bid to resume capital punishment after a 12-year hiatus.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray on Wednesday granted a temporary restraining order to McKesson Corp.
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Arkansas officials say they can not obtain the drug from another source. They include Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson, who are set for execution Thursday night.
Arkansas' aggressive effort to conduct its first executions since 2005 stalled for a second time this week when courts blocked lethal injections set for Thursday, prompting Gov. Asa Hutchinson to complain that state judges aren't honoring the decisions jurors made when sentencing the prisoners to death.
Justices on Thursday rejected a stay request from Ledell Lee. Their one-paragraph order did not elaborate on why.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted one of two executions set for Thursday, saying the condemned inmate should have a chance to prove his innocence with more DNA testing. The pharmaceutical companies say there is a public health risk if their drugs are diverted for use in executions, and that the state's possession of the drugs violates rules within their distribution networks.
Arkansas officials have defended the schedule because they have no guarantee of obtaining new lethal-injection drugs amid an ongoing shortage, and they have to carry out the death sentences of eight men convicted of capital murder. The drug is one of three used in Arkansas' lethal injection protocol. Arkansas plans to use 240 mEq immediately after the inmate is injected with vecuronium bromide.
According to McKesson, the Arkansas Department of Corrections deceived the company to purchase the drug, promised to return it and was given a refund - only to reverse course, refuse to hand over the drug and keep the refund.
An inmate set to die Thursday night is asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to block his execution so he can pursue more DNA tests in hopes of proving his innocence.
In a statement late Wednesday, Hutchinson did not say whether the state would appeal the 4-3 decision.
Arkansas originally scheduled eight executions over an 11-day period.
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