Crime Arkansas execution delayed by Supreme Court; state abandons second planned lethal injection

07:10  21 april  2017
07:10  21 april  2017 Source:   MSN

The Latest: Arkansas asks court to lift inmate's stay

  The Latest: Arkansas asks court to lift inmate's stay Arkansas is asking the state's highest court to reconsider its decision to halt the execution of one of the first inmates who had been scheduled to die under a plan to execute several men before the end of the month.Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked the state Supreme Court Saturday to lift the stay it issued to Bruce Ward, who was scheduled to die on Monday. The court had issued the stay on Friday.State and federal rulings have blocked the state's plan to execute eight inmates before its supply of a lethal injection drug expires at the end of April.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has thrown out a temporary restraining order that ordered the return of one of the execution drugs. All of the executions were back on schedule, until the state 's Supreme Court delayed the two executions planned for Monday night.

The Arkansas Supreme Court is allowing the state to use a lethal injection drug in upcoming executions , despite a supplier's complaint that it was sold to the state to be used only for inmates' medical care.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. © Danny Johnston/AP Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Arkansas appeared Thursday night to be prepared to carry out the state’s first execution in more than a decade, even as the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily postponed the lethal injection and other appeals were still pending that could add further delays.

This uncertainty amid a whirlwind of legal filings and orders came after Arkansas entered this week hoping to begin an unprecedented wave of executions, plans that were imperiled by a series of court orders halting at least some of the eight lethal injections originally set for April.

As part of its aggressive scheduling, Arkansas planned to carry out back-to-back executions on Thursday night at a state prison southeast of Little Rock. But that was abandoned when a state court blocked one of those lethal injections, and officials instead focused solely on plans to execute Ledell Lee, 51, by lethal injection.

The Latest: Arkansas court blocks execution of 2 inmates

  The Latest: Arkansas court blocks execution of 2 inmates <p>The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted the executions of two men originally scheduled to be put to death Monday night, putting another legal roadblock in place in Arkansas' plan to conduct eight executions before the end of April.</p>3:50 p.m.

A lethal injection room at an unidentified prison. (File Photo). × Arkansas execution delayed as Supreme Court refuses to overrule state court .

State and federal courts lifted the two primary obstacles Arkansas faced in its plan to execute eight inmates before the end of April, but the state backed away from legal efforts to carry out one of the first two lethal injections scheduled Monday night.

[Arkansas courts had blocked one execution, prohibited use of lethal injection drug]

Lee was sentenced to death in 1995 for the killing of Debra Reese, who was brutally beaten to death in her home two years earlier. According to court petitions and his attorneys, Lee has long denied involvement in Reese’s death, and he was seeking DNA testing to try and prove his innocence.

Appeals filed by Lee’s attorneys hoping to delay his execution were rejected by U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. He also petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, not long after justices on Thursday night denied other stay requests filed by several Arkansas death-row inmates. Lee filed a volley of appeals at the high court seeking a stay of execution, saying that technology exists now that could verify his innocence and arguing that he has an intellectual disability that should prevent his execution.

Company sues Arkansas, charging fraud over lethal injection drugs

  Company sues Arkansas, charging fraud over lethal injection drugs <p>A major U.S. pharmaceutical firm sued Arkansas again over capital punishment on Tuesday, claiming prison officials fraudulently obtained a muscle relaxant to administer in several executions and demanding the drug in question be confiscated from the state.</p>Arkansas, which last carried out an execution a dozen years ago, has sought to resume capital punishment this month with a plan that originally called for putting eight inmates to death by lethal injection in 11 days.

The order came down after the Arkansas Supreme Court allowed the state to use a drug that is part of its chemical mix for lethal injections , hours before the state planned its first execution in 12 years.

The Arkansas Supreme Court is allowing the state to use a lethal injection drug in upcoming executions , despite a supplier's complaint that it was sold to the state to be used only for inmates' medical care.

“It is inappropriate for the state to rush to execute before a defendant’s innocence claim can be properly examined,” Nina Morrison, a lawyer with the Innocence Project and an attorney for Lee, said in a statement Thursday.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who is assigned cases from the federal circuit covering Arkansas, then issued an order delaying Lee’s lethal injection “pending further order of the undersigned or of the Court.”

If Lee’s execution is carried out, he would be the first Arkansas inmate put to death since 2005.

Arkansas officials and death-row inmates have been battling in state and federal courts over the state’s decision to plan the executions during a compressed timeframe as well as its planned lethal-injection procedure. Earlier this year, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) scheduled eight executions over 11 days in April, a pace unmatched for the modern American death penalty. Hutchinson said that it was not his preference, but that it is necessary because one of the state’s lethal-injection drugs will expire at the end of the month.

Arkansas court blocks 1 execution set for Thursday

  Arkansas court blocks 1 execution set for Thursday The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted one of two executions planned for Thursday night, once again throwing a wrench in the state's plans to conduct several executions before the end of April, when one of its lethal injection drugs expires.The court ruled that Stacey Johnson could pursue his requests for enhanced DNA testing in hopes of proving his innocence in the 1993 rape and killing of Carol Heath. The Innocence Project filed the appeal along with Johnson's attorney."We've established that modern DNA testing methods can prove Mr. Johnson's innocence, and Arkansas law clearly established that Mr. Johnson is entitled to that testing," said Karen Thompson, a staff attorney with

The state Supreme Court also lifted a lower court ruling preventing the state from using another lethal injection drug that a supplier said was sold to be used for medical purposes, not executions . Davis’ execution would have come two years after Arkansas enacted a measure making secret the source

The Arkansas Supreme Court is allowing the state to use a lethal injection drug in upcoming executions , despite a supplier's complaint that it was sold to the state to be used only for inmates' medical care.More >>.

Arkansas officials defended the schedule, saying they have no guarantee of obtaining new lethal-injection drugs due to an ongoing shortage and have to carry out the death sentences of eight men convicted of capital murder. 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.

Death-row inmates in Arkansas appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the executions, but the justices on Thursday night released orders denying these requests. This marked the first time Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who joined the court earlier this month, voted to create a conservative majority. In one of the orders, the court was split 5-4, with Gorsuch joining the majority in denying the stay and the court’s four liberal members saying they would have granted it.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who has previously questioned the “arbitrary” nature of the death penalty’s implementation, authored a critical dissent of Arkansas’ stated desire to carry out executions before its drugs expire.

“I have previously noted the arbitrariness with which executions are carried out in this country,” he wrote. “And I have pointed out how the arbitrary nature of the death penalty system, as presently administered, runs contrary to the very purpose of a ‘rule of law.’ The cases now before us reinforce that point.”

As the court battling over the executions has continued, both Arkansas and the state’s death-row inmates have won key victories in court. By Thursday night, Arkansas appeared to have given up on at least four of the planned eight executions for this month after they were blocked by courts. After the Arkansas Supreme Court stayed one of the two executions set for Thursday night, a spokesman for the state’s attorney general said she had “no plans to appeal further at this time.”

On Monday night, the state’s first two planned executions were also blocked by the Arkansas Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request to allow Arkansas to proceed with one of them; state officials said that as a result, they did not expect to carry out either execution this month. Another execution, originally scheduled for next week, was previously halted by a federal judge after a parole board said it would recommend changing that inmate’s sentence to life in prison.

Arkansas Can Execute One Inmate Tonight, Court Rules

  Arkansas Can Execute One Inmate Tonight, Court Rules The state of Arkansas was preparing to execute one man Thursday night mere hours after a court overruled a restraining order that blocked the state's use of one of its lethal injection drugs. Faced with a number of legal hurdles, Arkansas in the early evening won a legal victory allowing it to move forward with the execution of Ledell Lee at 7 p.m. CT (8 p.m.) on Thursday.The state Supreme Court sided with state prosecutors and tossed a restraining order that a county court on Wednesday night had placed on Arkansas's use of the paralytic vecuronium bromide — one of three drugs in the lethal injection cocktail.

State and federal courts lifted the two primary obstacles Arkansas faced in its plan to execute eight inmates before the end of April, but the state backed away from legal efforts to carry out one of the first two lethal injections scheduled Monday night.

His attorney sought a stay of execution , and on Monday, the Arkansas Supreme Court granted a delay in the executions of Davis and another inmate, Bruce Ward. Arkansas had set the schedule because its supply of a lethal injection drug, midazolam, expires on May 1.

Once the executions Monday were stayed, Arkansas had shifted its focus to the other lethal injections on the schedule, but court orders issued Wednesday threatened to derail the state’s plans. The Arkansas Supreme Court blocked one execution planned for Thursday, while a state circuit court judge issued a broader order temporarily prohibiting the state from using one of its three lethal-injection drugs due to complaints from the distributor.

Arkansas successfully appealed to the state Supreme Court on Thursday to allow them to use that lethal injection drug, removing what officials had described as a de facto stay on any executions taking place this month.

The state has faced criticism from drug companies unhappy that their products may be used in executions. Two companies filed a brief last week asking a federal judge to block the use of their drugs, which include midazolam, a commonly-used sedative that has prompted controversy when utilized in executions; state officials say their stock of the drug expire April 30.

McKesson, the country’s largest drug distributor, went further, seeking to block the state from using vecuronium bromide, another drug, and accusing Arkansas of obtaining it under false pretenses. A state circuit judge issued an order prohibiting Arkansas from using this drug in executions, where it is used as a paralytic.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) filed an appeal with the Arkansas Supreme Court seeking to have that order stayed, a request that was granted Thursday afternoon, just hours before the first execution was set to begin.

Supreme Court won't hear condemned Alabama inmate's case

  Supreme Court won't hear condemned Alabama inmate's case MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The U.S. Supreme Court has turned down a long shot request to reconsider the appeal of an Alabama inmate scheduled to be executed by lethal injection next month.Justices on Monday refused the rehearing request by Tommy Arthur, who has had seven execution dates postponed.The court in November stayed Arthur's execution to consider whether to hear the appeal centered on a requirement that condemned inmates challenging their method of execution name a feasible alternate method. The court in February ruled it would not hear the case and maintained the decision.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An aggressive effort by the state of Arkansas to carry out its first executions since 2005 stalled for the second time this week as courts blocked lethal injections planned for Thursday, prompting Gov. Asa Hutchinson to express frustration at legal delaying tactics.

An aggressive effort by the state of Arkansas to carry out its first executions since 2005 stalled for the second time this week as courts blocked lethal injections planned Thursday for two inmates.More >>.

The eight death-row inmates with execution dates originally scheduled this month. © AFP/Getty Images/Arkansas Department of Corrections The eight death-row inmates with execution dates originally scheduled this month.

In a statement Thursday evening, McKesson expressed disappointment with the decision but said it would no longer seek court orders keeping its drug from being used.

“We believe we have done all we can do at this time to recover our product,” the company said. “We are disappointed that the Arkansas Supreme Court has held our favorable injunction ruling in abeyance and delayed further scheduling in our case.”

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. 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.”

McKesson has previously sought and won a similar order blocking the state from using the vecuronium bromide. Another state judge granted such an order last week, but he was quickly criticized by Rutledge and others for attending a death-penalty protest the same day and was removed from the case by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which vacated his order.

Also on Wednesday, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued an order staying one of the two executions set for Thursday night. The court, in a narrow 4-to-3 decision, blocked the execution of Stacey E. Johnson, 47, who has been on death row since 1994 and was facing execution Thursday night.

The court offered no explanation for the order, saying only that Johnson should be allowed to press on with his motion for post-conviction DNA testing. Johnson was sentenced to death for the murder of Carol Jean Heath, a woman brutally killed in her home. The same court rejected Rutledge’s request Thursday to rescind the order and let the execution occur or to issue an order explaining their decision.

Arkansas prepares for its fourth execution in eight days

  Arkansas prepares for its fourth execution in eight days An Arkansas inmate is scheduled to die by lethal injection Thursday night, ending an aggressive execution schedule that originally called for putting eight men to death over an 11-day period. The executions were scheduled to take place before one of the state’s lethal injection drugs expires Sunday.Williams faces the death penalty for killing former deputy prison warden Cecil Boren after escaping from the Cummins Unit prison in a 500-gallon barrel of pig food in 1999.

Court orders have already delayed two of the planned executions , including an Arkansas Supreme Court order on Friday afternoon that stayed one of the lethal injections planned for Monday.

“I am both surprised and disappointed at the last minute stay by the Arkansas Supreme Court,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “When I set the dates, I knew there could be delays in one or more of the cases, but I expected the courts to allow the juries’ sentences to be carried out since each case had been reviewed multiple times by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed the guilt of each.”

Nina Morrison, the lawyer with the Innocence Project, said the group was “grateful and relieved” with the decision to stay the execution.

In a statement discussing Lee’s case, Morrison said attorneys argued that he deserves DNA testing because of “a significant amount of DNA evidence that has never been tested which could exonerate Mr. Lee and identify the real perpetrator of the crime.

Three state justices dissented from the decision to stay Johnson’s execution. All three joined in a dissent saying the stay in this case “gives uncertainty to any case ever truly being final in the Arkansas Supreme Court.” Hutchinson pointed to the dissents and said he knows “families of the victims are anxious for a clear-cut explanation from the majority as to how they came to this conclusion and how there appears to be no end to the court’s review.”

Rutledge also criticized the state court, saying it had “unanimously rejected an identical argument” from the same inmate in 2004. She appealed to the same court on Thursday afternoon, asking them to withdraw the stay or at least give an explanation for why it was issued, but this was rebuffed by the court, though three justices said they would have granted her motion.

“I know that this is disappointing and difficult for Carol Heath’s family and her two children who were home at the time of the murder,” Rutledge said. She pledged to try and “ensure that justice is carried out.”

Another execution scheduled this month in another state was also halted Thursday. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) commuted the death sentence of Ivan Teleguz, a 38-year-old man set to be executed next week after the murder-for-hire of his former girlfriend.

This story, first posted at 12:28 p.m., has been updated and will be updated throughout the day with news on the status of the scheduled executions.

Arkansas prepares for its fourth execution in eight days .
An Arkansas inmate is scheduled to die by lethal injection Thursday night, ending an aggressive execution schedule that originally called for putting eight men to death over an 11-day period. The executions were scheduled to take place before one of the state’s lethal injection drugs expires Sunday.Williams faces the death penalty for killing former deputy prison warden Cecil Boren after escaping from the Cummins Unit prison in a 500-gallon barrel of pig food in 1999.

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