Execution halted for fourth of eight men set to die in Arkansas

Angie Massey
April 20, 2017

Lee and Johnson are the only two inmates among the group of eight to consistently maintain their innocence. Anti-death penalty supporter Randy Gardner, right, embraces Abraham Bonowitz, left, after they read on his phone the 11:45 p.m., decision to halt the execution in their taped off "protest corral" outside the Varner Unit late Monday, April 17, 2017 near Varner, Ark. 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.

The Arkansas Supreme Court halted a double execution the state planned Monday night, and justices on Wednesday blocked the lethal injection of another inmate scheduled to die Thursday night.

Stacey Johnson is the fourth prisoner in Arkansas to receive a reprieve from execution this month, frustrating state authorities' efforts to run a batch through capital punishment before a key drug in the lethal injections expires.

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.

"The threat of irreparable harm to the plaintiffs is significant: If midazolam does not adequately anesthetize plaintiffs, or if their executions are 'botched, ' they will suffer severe pain before they die", she wrote. The protest took place outside Gov. Hutchinson's house.

"I know the families of the victims are anxious for a clear-cut explanation from the majority as to how they came to this conclusion and how there appears to be no end to the court's review", Hutchinson said.

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

On Monday, the Arkansas Supreme Court forbade Griffin from hearing death penalty-related cases and referred him to the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission to discover if he violated a state code of judicial conduct. McKesson seeks an order that would force prison officials to return the company's supply of vecuronium bromide, one of three drugs used in the state's lethal injection protocol.

In another case, Baker canceled an April 18 hearing in which the lawyers for Marcel Williams, who is scheduled to be executed April 24, meant to argue that because of his obesity, Arkansas' lethal injection protocol is not likely to kill him and could cause organ damage.

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"The Arkansas Supreme Court recognized that executing either man, before the Court answers this question. would be profoundly arbitrary and unjust", Scott Braden, an assistant federal public defender for the inmates, said Monday.

Arkansas plans to execute Lee and another inmate, Stacey Johnson, on Thursday night.

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.

Judd Deere, a spokesman for Arkansas attorney general Leslie Rutledge, said the state will appeal Gray's ruling.

In a 4-3 ruling late Wednesday afternoon, the state's highest court issued a stay for Johnson and ordered a new hearing in lower court for Johnson to make his claims.

Don Davis and Bruce Ward were both scheduled to be executed April 17, but the Arkansas Supreme Court stayed their executions.

A state prison official testified that he deliberately ordered the drug previous year in a way that there wouldn't be a paper trail, relying on phone calls and text messages.

After that ruling was overturned, McKesson filed a new complaint on Tuesday to stop the Arkansas Department of Corrections from using the drugs, which would essentially block the remaining executions.

The company said that ADC placed the order for the drug over the phone and never disclosed that the drug was to be used for executions.

Other reports by GizPress

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