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20 April 2017, 06:10 | Laverne Osborne
Arkansas courts block resumption of executions
Anti-death penalty activists have protested against what has been labelled "assembly line killings". The medical supply company says it sold vecuronium bromide to be used for inmate care. It's one of three drugs Arkansas plans to use in its executions.
On Monday, Don Davis won a reprieve from the state's top court a few hours before his scheduled execution, then waited nearly until midnight to learn the Supreme Court would not allow the execution to proceed.
"Because (Lee), like Stacey Johnson, has never gotten a hearing on his DNA petition, and has maintained his innocence for over two decades, we are hopeful that the Arkansas Supreme Court will also grant him a stay and give him a hearing on the DNA evidence", said the Innocence Project's Nina Morrison, who is one of Lee's attorneys. The other inmate scheduled for Thursday, Ledell Lee, argued unsuccessfully Tuesday in a Little Rock courtroom that he be given a chance to test blood and hair evidence that could prove he didn't beat 26-year-old Debra Reese to death during a 1993 robbery in Jacksonville.
Two Arkansas courts on Wednesday blocked the state's plans to resume a flurry of executions starting Thursday night.
"In its efforts to "enforce the law" Arkansas has ridden roughshod over private companies' legal agreements and the interests of Arkansas patients, and today's ruling shows this will not pass unchallenged".
When those appeals reach the Supreme Court, they go first to the justice who oversees the state in which the execution is scheduled. A third man has received a stay from a federal judge over issues with his clemency schedule.
A deputy director of the Arkansas prison system says he deliberately ordered an execution drug in a way so there wouldn't be a paper trail.
The medical supplier McKesson Corp. refiled its lawsuit Tuesday before a judge in Pulaski County.
In the drug case, a state prison official testified that he deliberately ordered the drug past year in a way that there wouldn't be a paper trail, relying on phone calls and text messages. He said he didn't keep records of the texts, but a McKesson representative did. In 2015, justices upheld Oklahoma's execution protocol that used the same drug. Griffin said he did tell Jenkins. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, which came up at a court hearing Wednesday, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions.
The state originally set eight executions to occur over an 11-day period in April, which would have been the most by a state in such a compressed period since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
The state described the inmates' challenge as a last-minute delay that would "manipulate the judicial process".
Rosenzweig also represents two other inmates scheduled to die this month - Jack Jones and Kenneth Williams.
Governor Asa Hutchinson set the unprecedented schedule due to one of the drugs in the state's lethal injection mix expiring at the end of the month.
Four of the eight inmates have received stays on unrelated issues. The state can ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to reconsider its decision or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which on Monday opted not to vacate a separate stay involving inmate Davis.
Two executions are set for Thursday, followed by another double execution Monday and a single execution April 27. The average time between sentencing and execution for prisoners executed in 2013 topped 15 years, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Deere, the attorney general's spokesman, said the state was reviewing its options regarding Johnson's case.
A judge in Pulaski County on Tuesday rejected the request for DNA testing from inmate Ledell Lee. While Davis had spent the past quarter century on death row, lawyers filed multiple emergency appeals at the 11th hour to try to spare his life.
Arkansas plans to execute Lee and another inmate, Stacey Johnson, on Thursday night.
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