Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Arkansas Inmates Seek Execution Stays On Different Front

Arkansas Inmates Seek Execution Stays On Different Front

Death row inmates Stacey Johnson (left) and Ledell Lee are both scheduled to be put to death Thursday, though court rulings have put those executions on hold for now.

Justices also denied an attempt by makers of midazolam and potassium chloride - the two other drugs in Arkansas' execution plan - to intervene in McKesson's fight over the vecuronium bromide.

Preparations for the lethal injections, scheduled for Thursday night at 7 p.m. CDT (0000 GMT) and 8:15 p.m. CDT (0100 GMT on Friday), were underway, prisons spokesman Solomon Graves said.

Human rights campaigners and anti-death penalty activists have warned that the latest rulings do not mark an end to the "deadly spate of executions". But Arkansas has faced a wave of legal challenges.

The three stays, along with one granted earlier, have whittled down the execution list to four, unless the U.S. Supreme Court allows Arkansas to move ahead with Stacey Johnson's Thursday execution.

The rulings came two days after the state's high court stayed two executions set for Monday. Johnson's attorneys have sought more DNA testing that they say could exonerate him. The state is expected to appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Lee is fighting in federal and state courts for a similar stay.

Moments later a state circuit judge in a separate courtroom granted a temporary restraining blocking the state from using a drug for lethal injections. The company said it would suffer harm financially and to its reputation if the executions were carried out.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray sided with the company, and blocked the use of the drug in executions.

Arkansas officials have said they can not obtain the drug from another source.

The state originally set four double executions over an 11-day period in April. Judge Wendell Griffin's decision was vacated Monday by the Arkansas Supreme Court, as we reported.

This story has been corrected to show that the inmate's name is Ledell Lee, not Lendell Lee. Their one-paragraph order did not elaborate on why.

Johnson and Lee both say they are innocent.

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. A drug supply company says Arkansas obtained the drug under false pretenses.

The other two justices who favored stopping the executions were Robin Wynne, who was touted as tough on child predators when he was elected in 2014, and Josephine Linker Hart, who ran as a "no-nonsense judge" in 2012.

A state employee's signature on McKesson documents approving the return was a forgery, and the employee in question, Jennifer Dean, does not work for her department, Kelley testified.

Already, Arkansas appears to have given up on three of the planned eight executions. But the drug is set to expire at the end of the month - hence the hurry.

He also said the two had several communications afterward about how the purchase needed to be kept secret under state law.

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. A spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Corrections declined to comment on McKesson's claims, but the state argued in court filings that the company "willingly sold a drug. and then experienced seller's remorse".

Lawyers for the state of Arkansas are trying to light a fire under a judge who has been slow to file written paperwork involving a death penalty case. They asked Gray on Wednesday to either order the agency to return them or at least bar Arkansas from using them until the ownership can be decided at trial.

Arkansas wants to appeal Gray's order, but needs a written order from her to do so.

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