Court Rulings Block 2 Scheduled Executions Today In Arkansas

Arkansas' plan to resume executions is blocked by new court orders

The Arkansas Department of Correction released a few records on Saturday about Thursday's execution of death row inmate Ledell Lee - the state's first use of capital punishment in almost 12 years. Ledell Lee, whose execution had been scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, appealed for a stay of execution to prove his innocence through DNA testing. Arkansas executed Lee minutes after the court rejected the last of his requests.

The rapid pacing of the planned executions prompted a flurry of legal challenges and renewed a debate over executions in the United States, with lawyers for the inmates arguing that Arkansas was in an unseemly rush that offended standards of decency.

Arkansas was pushing to execute eight condemned men to death before its supply of the sedative drug midazolam, one of three used in its execution process, expired at the end of April. Four of the men have received stays for various reasons.

A Wednesday ruling by an Arkansas circuit court also seemed to hold up the executions.

Lee's is the first of eight executions that Arkansas plans to carry out over the next couple of weeks; the state has not put anyone to death since 2005. In his first votes since joining the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the conservative majority in denying multiple requests to stay Lee's execution. McKesson Corp says the state obtained the drug under false pretences and that it wants nothing to do with executions.

Just before Lee was put to death, officials at the Cummins Unit prison in Grady, Arkansas, asked him twice for his final words, but he did not respond.

Since the Supreme Court ruled to reinstate the death penalty in 1973, the 31 u.s. states that have the death penalty have carried out 1,448 executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Arkansas dropped plans to execute a second inmate, Stacey Johnson, on the same day.

The legal maneuvers frustrated Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who had set the execution schedule less than two months ago.

"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. After another day of legal drama, the execution got underway shortly after word came that the U.S. Supreme Court would not take action to prevent the state from putting Lee to death via lethal injection.

McKesson said it was disappointed in the court's ruling.

"In my view, that factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random", Justice Breyer wrote.

"While other states have increasingly come to the conclusion that the capital punishment system is beyond fix", he said, "Arkansas is running in the opposite direction from progress".

McKesson has previously sought and won such an order blocking the state from using the vecuronium bromide.

The Hill reported that in 2016, America had the lowest number of new death row inmates since the reinstatement of the death penalty back in 1976. Moreover, Lee asserted that Arkansas' use of midazolam to render him unconscious before stopping his heart was cruel and unusual in violation of the Eighth Amendment: The drug may not actually induce unconsciousness and has caused other executions to go terribly awry.

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