April 19 A divided Arkansas Supreme Court on Wednesday halted the execution of an inmate who had been scheduled to die on Thursday.
In a setback to Arkansas' unprecedented bid to carry out eight executions this month, the Arkansas Supreme Court granted a stay to one inmate and a circuit court barred the use of a lethal injection drugs in any execution. In that order, the state Supreme Court did not elaborate on its reasoning. The sedative is supposed to render death penalty inmates unconscious and unable to feel pain during their executions, but in cases in Oklahoma, Alabama, Arizona, and OH in recent years inmates were reportedly conscious and showed signs of extreme pain. Lee's defense team had earlier in the day requested a stay to prove his innocence through DNA testing.
Stacey Johnson was convicted of killing Carol Heath in 1993 in Sevier County, AR. The number of executions carried out in the United States fell to a 25-year low in 2016. Arkansas and other states have found it hard to persuade drug companies to sell drugs for use in capital punishment.
Lee was one of two men scheduled to die Thursday evening. She also said the protocol doesn't lay out what executioners intend to do to ensure that the inmates are unconscious. That would have been the most by a state in such a compressed period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Ultimately, the courts ruled that the execution could go on as scheduled, Lee became the first prisoner to be executed in Arkansas since 2005.
But at least one high court justice expressed serious reservations about what critics have called Arkansas' rush to the death chamber.
On Thursday the state's Supreme Court overturned a ruling blocking the use of a different drug.
McKesson said it would not have sold the drug to the Arkansas prison system had it known it would be used in executions. The company said it would suffer harm financially and to its reputation if the executions were carried out.
The legal delays in the executions frustrated Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other state officials. The judge ruled on a lawsuit by USA pharmaceutical wholesaler McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc which accused the state of obtaining the muscle relaxant vecuronium bromide under false pretences.
Anti-death penalty supporters Abraham Bonowitz, left, and Randy Gardner wait near their taped off "protest corral" outside the Varner Unit late Monday, April 17, 2017 near Varner, Ark. That's true whether it's the inmate who is seeking an eleventh-hour reprieve or the state that wants to put a prisoner to death.
Reporters from the Associated Press, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and ABC-affiliate KATV were chosen as media witnesses an hour before the procedure was to take place. In fact, the court ordered Griffin removed from all death penalty cases after photos emerged of him participating in a rally against the executions. It's the quickest timetable in Arkansas since 1926, though state officials say waiting more than two decades to put some of the killers to death could hardly be characterized as swift. The Supreme Court, as well as a federal appeals court in St. Louis, issued temporary stays of execution while they considered his legal arguments.
"I have ultimate respect for the court and I'm not going to question individual decisions but I would say there is frustration among the Legislature as to the court's continued refusal to allow an execution to go through", said Sen.
That leaves five men set for execution in an eight-day period starting Thursday. The image of Griffen strapped to the cot invoked comparisons to a condemned inmate on a gurney awaiting lethal injection.