"The Arkansas Supreme Court in 2004 unanimously rejected an identical argument brought by Inmate Stacey Johnson, but today, by a vote of four to three, the Court has without legal explanation blocked the execution of an individual sentenced by two different juries".
An inmate set to die Thursday night is asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to block his execution so he can pursue more DNA tests in hopes of proving his innocence. He was found guilty of killing a 25-year-old mother of two in 1993.
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.
A group of death-row inmates scheduled to die over 11 days this month have filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking a review of an appeals court's decision to toss a stay of their executions issued days earlier by a federal judge.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is weighing her legal options in responding to the court's decision to stay Johnson's execution.
Davis had already been served a last meal of fried chicken, rolls, beans, mashed potatoes and strawberry cake, and witnesses were being moved toward the execution chamber when the Supreme Court ruled just minutes before his death warrant expired at midnight. But the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that order Monday, and the inmates appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. That would be the most in the United States in as short a period since the death penalty's reinstatement in 1976.
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Arkansas is hard up for lethal injection drugs because pharmaceutical companies have long avoided providing their products to Department of Corrections for executions. Another ruling Wednesday could scuttle the entire schedule. They also asked for an emergency appeal if that review extended beyond 7 p.m. Thursday, when the next execution is scheduled.
"McKesson was duped ... into providing the drugs", lawyer John Tull argued.
The execution of a third inmate, Jason McGehee, had been set for April 27, but a federal judge put it on hold earlier this month, saying McGehee was entitled to a 30-day comment period after the Arkansas Parole Board told the governor that the inmate's clemency request had merit.
The last time two executions were attempted in one night was in 2014 in Oklahoma, when prison staff bungled the first and the state called off the second one. The court also barred an anti-death penalty circuit judge from participation in cases or laws involving capital punishment, and lifted his order blocking the state from using a lethal injection drug in the planned executions.
Arkansas plans to execute Lee and another inmate, Stacey Johnson, on Thursday night.
Another case that could trip up Arkansas' plan was filed Tuesday by the medical supplier McKesson Corp., which says it sold the drug vecuronium bromide to the Arkansas Department of Correction for inmate medical care, not executions. Attorneys for the inmate filed a request Wednesday for a stay with the state's highest court.