Arkansas officials ask courts to clear path for executions


Stacey Johnson was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of Carol Heath in 1993, who was killed in her home while her 6-year old daughter watched.

The Arkansas attorney general's office says it won't appeal an order halting the execution of Stacey Johnson. They won stays from the Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday after lawyers argued their mental health issues were similar enough to those raised in an Alabama case going before the U.S. Supreme Court next week.

Occasionally, one or more justices will dissent from the decision to let the execution take place.

"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. Outside groups and the candidates spent more than $1.6 million past year on a pair of high court races that were among the most fiercely fought judicial campaigns in the state's history.

Johnson will now have the chance to make his case in a lower court for further DNA testing.

So far, three condemned prisoners have been spared the execution schedule set by Republican governor Asa Hutchinson, Jason McGehee on Friday, and Bruce Ward and Davis on Monday.

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One of the drugs in the Arkansas mix, midazolam had been used in flawed executions in Oklahoma and Arizona, where witnesses said the inmates appeared to twist in pain on death chamber gurneys.

Regarding Johnson's stay of execution, it's not clear whether Rutledge will file an appeal. But Arkansas has faced a wave of legal challenges.

The state and its lawyers say the inmates are seeking any legal approach they can find in their efforts to avoid death.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray blocked the state from using the drug vecuronium bromide, siding with McKesson Corp., which had argued that it sold Arkansas the drug for medical use, not executions.

"ADC (the Arkansas Department of Correction) personnel used an existing medical license, which is to be used only to order products with legitimate medical uses, and an irregular ordering process to obtain the vecuronium via phone order with a McKesson salesperson", the brief said. A ninth death-row inmate who does not have a scheduled execution date also signed on to the request. Lee's death late Thursday night was Arkansas' first execution since 2005.

Her two young children were at home at the time.

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"They will continue pending the outcome of appeals at both the state and federal levels", Graves said in an email.

Justices also denied an attempt by makers of midazolam and potassium chloride - the two other drugs in Arkansas' execution plan - to intervene in McKesson's fight over the vecuronium bromide.

The state can ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to reconsider its decision or appeal to the US Supreme Court, which on Monday opted not to vacate a separate stay involving inmate Don Davis.

The court voted Wednesday to halt the execution of an inmate facing lethal injection Thursday night, two days after justices stayed the executions of two other inmates. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, which came up at Wednesday's court hearing, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions. Four of the men have received stays for various reasons.

The Arkansas Supreme Court later reversed the restraining order.

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