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Arkansas plans 3 more executions

22 April 2017

Arkansas dropped plans to execute a second inmate, Stacey Johnson, on the same day after the state Supreme Court said it would not reconsider his stay, which was issued so Johnson could seek more DNA tests in the hope of proving his innocence.

Ledell Lee, 51, was pronounced dead at 11:56 pm CDT at the state's death chamber in its Cummins Unit prison, a Department of Corrections spokesman said.

VARNER, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas overcame a flurry of court challenges that derailed three other executions, putting to death an inmate for the first time in almost a dozen years as part of a plan that would have been the country's most ambitious since the death penalty was restored in 1976.

But four of these men have received stays for various reasons.

At one point on Thursday night, the Supreme Court almost halted Lee's execution, but decided, 5 to 4, to allow the state to proceed with its plan. Lee was given midazolam, then a drug to paralyze and suffocate him-which may have been purchased under false pretenses. The third, potassium chloride, brings on cardiac arrest and stops the heart.

"What McKesson's lawsuit demonstrates is that the secrecy law is not created to protect the distributors and manufacturers; it's created to try to prevent them from learning that the state has improperly obtained the drugs", said Dunham, whose nonprofit group opposes the death penalty.

The schedule has been attributed to the expiration date of Arkansas' supply of midazolam, the first drug administered in the three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections.

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The state originally set four double executions over an 11-day period in April.

One of the drug companies was granted a restraining order after arguing in court that their drug wasn't supposed to be used for capital punishment.

Fresenius Kabi USA asked Arkansas not to violate the company's contracts with distributors that prohibit the sale of Fresenius drugs for executions. But a divided Supreme Court in 2015 ruled that prisoners did not prove the drug entailed "a substantial risk of severe pain".

The state petitioned the Arkansas Supreme Court to stay the county court's ruling.

"I'll give you two words for 'cruel and unusual, '" Williams said, referring to terms used by inmates to describe the manner of their planned execution.

Thirty-one states now administer the death penalty, and lethal injection is the primary means of execution in all of them. The execution was conducted without any apparent glitches on Thursday.

This photo of Debra Reese was taken shortly before she was murdered by Ledell Lee on Feb 9, 1993. Reese, 26, was found in her home in Jacksonville, she had been beaten and strangled. He is the first inmate executed in Arkansas in over a decade.

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His first known decision cleared the way for the state to execute Ledell Lee, a convicted murderer, Thursday night.

Amnesty International called on Arkansas to halt the "conveyor belt of executions".

"While other states have increasingly come to the conclusion that the capital punishment system is beyond fix, Arkansas is running in the opposite direction from progress". That would have been the most by a state in such a compressed period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

He requested the holy communion as his last meal and declined to make any final statement.

SEAN MURPHY: The inmate appeared to lose consciousness very quickly, didn't - I mean, within a matter of minutes his eyes closed.

The rulings by the nation's highest court lifted all remaining stays of execution, and the Arkansas Department of Corrections can proceed with the execution as planned late Thursday local time.

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Arkansas plans 3 more executions