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20 April 2017, 04:21 | Laverne Osborne
Arkansas inmates set to die Thursday claim innocence
In this Monday evening, April 17, 2017 photo, the sun sets behind clouds over an Arkansas State Police command post outside the Varner Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction near Varner.
Arkansas suffered two more setbacks in its unprecedented bid to carry out eight executions this month with the state's highest court granting a reprieve to an inmate scheduled to die on Thursday and a county court saying the state can not use one of its lethal injection drugs in any executions. In 2015, justices upheld Oklahoma's execution protocol that used the same drug. Inmate Bruce Ward has also won a stay.
An attorney for Stacey Eugene Johnson, sitting on death row since 1993 for the murder of 25-year-old mom Carol Heath, insists that today's "more precise" DNA testing would clear his client's name.
His attorneys appealed the ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court. All executions are now stayed while the state appeals.
Gray sided with McKesson Corp., which had argued that it sold Arkansas the drug for medical use, not executions, and that it would suffer harm financially and to its reputation if the executions were carried out.
A death row inmate scheduled to be executed in an Arkansas prison today was granted a stay by the highest court in the U.S. state hours before his lethal injection, his attorneys said.
Tim Jenkins of McKesson says Griffin never told him the drug would be used for executions.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted one of two executions set for Thursday, saying the condemned inmate should have a chance to prove his innocence with more DNA testing.
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.
An aggressive effort by the state of Arkansas to carry out its first executions since 2005 stalled for the second time this week as courts blocked lethal injections planned for Thursday, prompting Gov. Asa Hutchinson to express frustration at legal delaying tactics.
But amid public opposition to the death penalty - including protests in the state capital Little Rock including actor Johnny Depp and a judge linked to one of the cases - lawyers obtained stays for three other executions.
An inmate set to die Thursday night is asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to block his execution so he can pursue more DNA tests in hopes of proving his innocence.
"That's something we had sought from the state and federal courts and had been denied, and we're making another run at it and showing that there are new techniques that came into effect literally this year that can provide results that can bear on the case", Rosenzweig said. The average time between sentencing and execution for prisoners executed in 2013 topped 15 years, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.
A judge in Pulaski County on Tuesday rejected the request for DNA testing from inmate Ledell Lee. Attorneys for the inmate filed a request Wednesday for a stay with the state's highest court. There are no current stays blocking those executions, but both inmates have pending court challenges. The peak of 98 executions in 1999 was met with tighter court restrictions. The state and its lawyers say the inmates are seeking any legal approach they can find to avoid death. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.
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