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Court Rulings Block 2 Scheduled Executions Today In Arkansas
21 April 2017, 02:08 | Darnell Patrick
Fox News Omits Key Facts Regarding Unprecedented Arkansas Death Penalty Cases
"The Arkansas Supreme Court in 2004 unanimously rejected an identical argument brought by inmate Stacey Johnson, but today, by a vote of four to three, the court has without legal explanation blocked the execution of an individual sentenced by two different juries", Rutledge said. Arkansas officials are trying to carry out the executions before their supply of midazolam, one of the execution drugs used, expires at the end of April.
Grey sided with McKesson Corp., which had argued that it sold Arkansas the drug for medical use, not executions, and that it would suffer harm financially and to its reputation if the executions were carried out. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office said she would not appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Arkansas' plans to execute two of seven death row inmates on Thursday got tripped up by courts that put a halt on the state's rush to end their lives when the expected lethal injections were blocked and that could mean that they will stay alive.
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.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray's decision Wednesday throws into doubt, at least momentarily, whether Arkansas will be able to conduct its scheduled executions tonight.
The first two inmates scheduled for execution on Monday were spared one of them by the U.S. Supreme Court minutes before his death warrant expired and one of the two rulings on Wednesday could scuttle the entire schedule. Ledell Lee, scheduled for execution Thursday, saw his stay denied. (Potassium chloride is the third drug in the state's protocol.) The company claims the state purchased the vecuronium bromide under false pretenses.
Lee and Johnson are the only two inmates among the group of eight to consistently maintain their innocence.
It is likely that appeals Thursday will reach the U.S. Supreme Court and could stretch well into the night, as occurred Monday, when the justices released a late order that ultimately prevented the state's first attempt at an execution.
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The executions of inmates Bruce Ward and Don Davis, which had been slated for Monday, were called off after court-ordered halts over mental competency issues.
"The execution set by Arkansas has not been attempted by any state in recent history, if ever", Jen Moreno, a staff attorney Berkeley Law's Death Penalty Clinic, told Vocativ Wednesday. As such, she granted the TRO - at the hearing on Wednesday and in a written order issued a little before noon Thursday.
Lawyers for Lee are also petitioning for a reprieve from the state's top court, which has yet to issue a ruling. "I know that this is disappointing and hard for Carol Heath's family and her two children who were home at the time of the murder".
In the drug case, a state prison official testified that he deliberately ordered the drug a year ago in a way that there wouldn't be a paper trail, relying on phone calls and text messages.
The court had indicated earlier this year that it might view the death penalty more favorably, ruling to allow Arkansas to keep many details of its lethal injection drugs secret.
Preparations will continue "pending the outcome of appeals at both the state and federal levels", Graves said.
Lawyers for the state have complained that the inmates are filing court papers just to run out the clock on Arkansas' midazolam supply. That organization told Vocativ on Thursday that it has "a separate stay request before the Arkansas Supreme Court which hasn't ruled yet".
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