Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
U.S. | By Monique Johnson

Arkansas court blocks 1 execution set for Thursday

Arkansas court blocks 1 execution set for Thursday

The only Jennifer Dean she knows of works for Arkansas Community Correction, which administers the state's probation and parole departments, Kelley told the judge.

The executions of inmates Bruce Ward and Don Davis, which had been slated for Monday, were called off after court-ordered halts over mental competency issues. In this Monday evening, April 17, 2017 photo, the sun sets behind clouds over an Arkansas State Police command post outside the Varner Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction near Varner.

The pace of executions has prompted criticism from rights' groups. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge plans to appeal the decision to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which previously overturned a similar ruling on Monday made by Judge Wendell Griffen. Four of the eight have been granted stays of execution. The first two executions were canceled because of court decisions, and legal rulings have put the other six in doubt.

Inmates can spend years, or even decades, appealing their convictions and death sentences in state and federal courts.

The court hasn't explained its reasoning in any of its one-page stay-of-execution orders for the three inmates. In 2015, justices upheld Oklahoma's execution protocol that used the same drug.

For the second time in a week, Arkansas has been blocked from using one of its execution drugs until questions about how it obtained a supply of muscle relaxant can be resolved at a trial still to be scheduled.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted one of two executions set for Thursday, saying the condemned inmate should have a chance to prove his innocence with more DNA testing.

Johnson was convicted of the 1993 murder and sexual assault of Carol Heath.

The inmates claim in their request Wednesday that such a compressed schedule "is contrary to the evolving standards of decency". They include Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson, who are set for execution Thursday night.

Four of the eight inmates have received stays on unrelated issues. The sentences of three of the prisoners were stayed in earlier proceedings.

Later, a spokesman for Correct Care Solutions sent an email to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette saying the company "had absolutely no involvement in the purchase of drugs used for the goal of execution, nor did its doctor".

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.

In the drug case, a state prison official testified that he deliberately ordered the drug a year ago in a way that there wouldn't be a paper trail, relying on phone calls and text messages. He said he didn't keep records of the texts, but a McKesson representative did.

According to court documents, the ADC acquired the drug under false pretense, telling McKesson that it would strictly be used for medical purposes.

Griffin told the judge that he explicitly told Jenkins about the intended objective of the drug. 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.

The first two inmates scheduled for execution on Monday were spared - one of them by the U.S. Supreme Court minutes before his death warrant expired - and one of the two rulings on Wednesday could scuttle the entire schedule.

The state's response detailed the killings that sent the men to death row and argued that justice has been denied to the victims' loved ones. He said on Wednesday he was "both surprised and disappointed" by the delays.

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