Judge blocks Arkansas from using execution drug

Arkansas inmates set to die Thursday claim innocence

The state of Arkansas carried out its first execution in 12 years on Thursday just before midnight, after a series of rejected appeals that reached all the way up to the Supreme Court cleared the way for 51-year-old Ledell Lee to be put to death by lethal injection.

The Arkansas supreme court stayed the execution late on Wednesday of Stacey Johnson, one of two inmates due to die today, to hear new DNA evidence. Arkansas dropped plans to execute a second inmate, Stacey Johnson, on the same day after the state Supreme Court said it wouldn't reconsider his stay.

"Arkansas' decision to rush through the execution of Mr".

The first three executions were canceled this week because of court decisions. Outside groups and the candidates spent more than $1.6 million a year ago on a pair of high court races that were among the most fiercely fought judicial campaigns in the state's history.

Then, last Friday, Arkansas' Supreme Court suspended, with no explanation, the execution of prisoner Bruce Ward planned for Monday this week.

But after the resumption of the death penalty on Thursday, Hutchinson's spokesman J.R. Davis said: "Justice was carried out".

The execution caps days of legal jostling by Lee's defense lawyers and attorneys for the state of Arkansas over the state's right to use a paralytic as part of its lethal injection cocktail. The Innocence Project filed the appeal along with Johnson's attorney.

"Apparently the reason the state made a decision to proceed with these eight executions is that the "use by" date of the state's execution drug is about to expire", Breyer wrote. It was used in a "botched" Oklahoma execution in 2014, when a conscious inmate faced 40 minutes of paralysis and agonizing pain before suffering a heart attack.

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Asa Hutchinson says he is "surprised and disappointed" that the state Supreme Court has granted the stay of execution to Johnson.

Justices on Thursday lifted a judge's order preventing the state from using its supply of vecuronium bromide, one of three drugs used in Arkansas' lethal injection protocol.

Gray backed a lawsuit by drugs company McKesson, the supplier of the muscle relaxant vecuronium bromide that argued that it had been sold to the prison system on the understanding it would be used exclusively for medical purposes, and not for executions.

"The spokesman, Solomon Graves, said the two are being held in separate cells adjacent to the execution chamber, which is a short drive down the road from the Varner Unit, another prison that houses death-row inmates".

"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.

The other two justices who favored stopping the executions were Robin Wynne, who was touted as tough on child predators when he was elected in 2014, and Josephine Linker Hart, who ran as a "no-nonsense judge" in 2012.

Circuit Judge Alice Gray on Wednesday ordered the state to not use one of its execution drugs in executions set for Thursday night and next week. The remaining six could still theoretically be put to death this month, though two of those inmates have received stays that the state hasn't yet appealed. Four of the eight have been granted stays of execution. Its lawyers filed paperwork with the state Supreme Court on Thursday morning asking it to order her to submit a formal order.

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