The state of Arkansas executed death row inmate Ledell Lee late Thursday.
The Supreme Court had the chance to halt Lee’s execution Thursday, but instead voted to allow the state of Arkansas to proceed with its unprecedented plan with a 5-4 majority that included Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch.
Another day of intense legal wrangling kept Lee alive until just before his death warrant expired at midnight. The AP says he “showed no apparent signs of suffering” and “lost consciousness quickly”.
The last-minute wrangling has frustrated Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s aggressive timetable for the eight executions, which would be the state’s first since 2005.
In February 1993, 27-year-old Lee robbed and strangled 26-year-old Debra Reese in her Jacksonville home.
According to court documents, Reese wasn’t Lee’s only victim.
The state originally set four double executions over an 11-day period in April.
The three-drug cocktail used for executions in Arkansas includes Midazolam, which renders the subject unconscious, though it does not necessarily relieve any pain; vecuronium bromide, which paralyzes the inmates; and potassium chloride, which brings on cardiac arrest and stops the heart from beating.
Lee’s lawyers had requested modern DNA testing to provide the convict a chance to prove his possible innocence. Arkansas plans on having two executions on Monday, and another on Thursday.
By reactivating the death chamber, Arkansas has bucked a national trend which has seen a steady decline in the number of death sentences and of executions. A few days later on April 17, the state’s Supreme Court halted the executions scheduled for that day, but the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower-court ruling allowing Arkansas to move forward with the other executions.
Including Jones and Williams, nine people have been executed in the United States this year, four in Texas, three in Arkansas and one each in Missouri and Virginia.
Arkansas Prisons Director Wendy Kelley has said there is no way to obtain more midazolam or vecuronium bromide (another lethal injection drug).
McKesson Corp. had “claimed that the state deliberately circumvented [company restrictions] to use the drugs for executions”.
“I hope over time you can learn who I really am and I am not a monster”, he said in the roughly 2-minute statement.
Arkansas’ attempt to carry out a spate of executions before the end of the month has run into two fresh legal obstacles.
The state also has had to face criticism from drug companies unhappy that their products may be used in executions.
Gallini said trying to salvage the rest of the execution schedule could invite even more intense legal battles “because what started out as kind of a press release and a decision has ballooned” into trending hashtags and global news coverage. It’s also posing a challenge for the state’s attorneys, who have been fighting on multiple fronts. Ms Rutledge’s office said the Attorney General would not appeal to the US Supreme Court over that case. McKesson said in court filings that a state official had intentionally misled the medical distribution company into thinking that the chemical was needed as part of a routine restocking of the hospital wing of the prison service.
ABC News reported that some states have outright barred the use of the drug during executions. At one point in the proceedings before a federal judge last week, Arkansas solicitor general Lee Rudofsky declared: “Enough is enough”.