Arkansas executes death row inmate Ledell Lee

Arkansas' aggressive effort to conduct its first executions since 2005 stalled for a second time this week when courts blocked lethal injections set for Thursday, prompting Gov. Asa Hutchinson to complain that state judges aren't honoring the decisions jurors made when sentencing the prisoners to death.

Ledell Lee was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. Thursday, four minutes before his death warrant was due to expire at midnight.

The inmates said the state's drug protocol, which includes the controversial sedative midazolam, puts them at risk of an unnecessarily painful death.

Lee was put on death row for the 1993 murder of his neighbour Debra Reese, whom he struck 36 times with a tyre tool her husband had given her for protection.

Arkansas officials have been trying to push through the run of executions because the state's supply of midazolam expires at the end of April and the chances of getting a substitute are slim.

Two more inmates are set to die Monday, and one on April 27.

Lawyers for the state were asking courts to clear a path for a double execution scheduled for Thursday night. The state originally scheduled an unprecedented eight executions within an 11-day window, but several are now tied up in the courts. Unless a court steps in, Lee and Stacey Johnson are set for execution Thursday night. In his first vote on the nation's highest court, newly appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote in favor of putting Lee to death.

The nation's top court as well as a United States circuit court issued temporary execution stays as they analyzed the case-but ultimately all were lifted.

Lee, who had consistently maintained his innocence, was seeking DNA tests that his lawyers said could prove his claim.

Judd Deere, a spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said the state will appeal Gray's ruling.

The Arkansas execution push came shortly after an Amnesty International report that saw the us fall out of the top five countries for executions for the first time in a decade. The inmates needed at least five votes to block the upcoming executions, but they could only get four votes (those of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan) in one case and three votes (Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) in another.

Legal and pharmaceutical experts say the methods Arkansas used to obtain drugs for executions raise concerns about the state's respect for contracts between private businesses.

Attention will now turn to other impending executions in Arkansas. It is hard to understand how the same government that uses DNA to prosecute crimes every day could execute Mr.

Fresenius Kabi USA LLC of IL and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals Corp. of New Jersey stated in their petition that they have gone to great effort to keep their products from being used in lethal injections because they want their medications to be used to save lives and treat injuries and illnesses.

McKesson had argued there were restrictions on the use of vecuronium bromide in executions and the state never disclosed the drug would be used in a lethal cocktail. The legal setbacks at one point prompted the state's previous attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, to declare Arkansas' death penalty system "broken". 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".

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