Arkansas executions temporarily on hold

A group of Arkansas inmates is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block upcoming executions in the state, citing concerns with one of the lethal injection drugs.

"As pharmaceutical companies become increasingly resistant to allowing their products to be used in executions, states are likely to continue experimenting with new drugs and drug combinations, and death-row prisoners may challenge these new protocols as violating their constitutional rights", the filing before the U.S. Supreme Court said.

Rutledge said the request should be denied, calling the filers "capital murderers who have enjoyed multiple opportunities to challenge their convictions, sentences and - critically - the method by which they will be lawfully executed".

Unless a court steps in, Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson are set for execution Thursday night, and state prison officials have already moved them from death row to the nearby prison that houses the death chamber.

Arkansas' attempt to carry out its first execution in almost 12 years wasn't thwarted by the type of liberal activist judge Republicans regularly bemoan here, but instead by a state Supreme Court that's been the focus of expensive campaigns by conservative groups to reshape the judiciary.

Arkansas' attempt to carry out its first execution in almost 12 years wasn't thwarted by the type of liberal activist judge Republicans regularly bemoan here, but instead by a state Supreme Court that's been the focus of expensive campaigns by conservative groups to reshape the judiciary.

Two more executions are scheduled Thursday night.

Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

"McKesson was duped. into providing the drugs", lawyer John Tull said, arguing the company could see its reputation and bottom line suffer. Johnson's attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, wants a court to order new DNA testing on hair found in the victim's apartment and on clothing that prosecutors found at a rest stop and linked to Johnson.

In addition to the Department of Correction, the lawsuit named the department's head, Wendy Kelly, and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson as defendants. "It is inconceivable that this court, with the facts and the law well established, stays these executions over speculation that the (U.S.) Supreme Court might change the law". After Davis' execution was called off at the final hour, he was moved back to his cell at the nearby Varner Unit. Johnson's attorneys requested additional DNA testing on evidence that they say could prove his innocence in the 1993 rape and killing of Carol Heath.

One of the three dissenting judges issued a blistering criticism of Monday's ruling sparing the first two condemned inmates.

A state judge had earlier issued a similar temporary restraining order on vecuronium bromide from McKesson, but the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned that order late Monday.

Lawyers for the inmates set to be executed Thursday are relying primarily on claims the men are innocent. The state set such a compressed schedule because its supply of one of the lethal injection drugs expires at the end of April.

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