Arkansas carries out first execution in over a decade


The 51-year-old Lee was given the death penalty for the 1993 death of his neighbour Debra Reese, whom Lee struck 36 times with a tyre tool.

One legal hurdle the state had to overcome in its plan to execute Stacey Johnson and Lendell Lee was a court order preventing it from using its supply of vercuronium bromide, one of the three drugs in Arkansas' lethal injection protocol.

The Arkansas Supreme Court said in a four-three ruling that it would not reconsider its decision to stay Johnson's execution.

Lee's death late Thursday night was Arkansas' first execut. Lee's defense team had earlier in the day requested a stay to prove his innocence through DNA testing.

The frenetic filing of lawsuits and appeals in Arkansas has a profound impact on those awaiting execution, on their families and on the relatives of their victims.

According to The New York Times, Lee received injections of three drugs: midazolam, to render him unconscious; vecuronium bromide, to halt his breathing; and potassium chloride, to stop his heart.

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"His last meal request was that he receive communion, and he was given communion this afternoon", Department of Correction Spokesman Solomon Graves told reporters.

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. If any inmate dies by lethal injection, it would be the state's first execution since 2005.

McKesson Corp., a San Francisco-based medical supply company, "claimed that the state deliberately circumvented them to use the drugs for executions".

Lee's execution went ahead after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected last-minute appeals from his lawyers.

McKesson, the country's largest drug distributor, has gone further, seeking to block the state from using vecuronium bromide, a third drug, and accusing Arkansas of obtaining it under false pretenses.

Arkansas's Republican governor Asa Hutchinson has said the accelerated execution timetable is necessary as the state's stock of a controversial sedative will expire at the end of the month.

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The McKesson Corporation, which supplied the drug, had accused the Arkansas Department of Correction of failing to say it planned to use the drug for executions.

The Wednesday order halting Johnson's execution was issued by a now-familiar 4-3 split of the state high court.

Separately, BuzzFeed News reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday blocked a shipment of thousands of illegal execution drugs on their way to Texas, setting up a potential legal battle between the Trump administration and several death-penalty states. Another state judge granted such an order last week, but he was quickly criticized by Rutledge and others for attending a death-penalty protest the same day and was removed from the case by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which vacated his order.

But Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge appealed the case to the state Supreme Court, which overruled Gray's decision, though it did not provide an opinion.

"What McKesson's lawsuit demonstrates is that the secrecy law is not created to protect the distributors and manufacturers; it's created to try to prevent them from learning that the state has improperly obtained the drugs", said Dunham, whose nonprofit group opposes the death penalty.

The state also has had to face criticism from drug companies unhappy that their products may be used in executions. "That factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random".

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