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

Arkansas execution plan again thrown into doubt


The Arkansas Supreme Court has rejected a stay request from an inmate as it seeks to hold its first executions since 2005, though another court decision has all executions scheduled in the state on hold. Johnson's attorneys requested additional DNA testing on evidence that they say could prove his innocence in the 1993 rape and killing of Carol Heath.

An hour before Scott's show aired, correspondent Casey Stegall noted on Fox's America's Newsroom that "states have had a hard time getting new supplies of this drug [midazolam] because many critics say it should not be used to kill people".

The judge filed her order Thursday after the state complained to the Arkansas Supreme Court that she was taking too much time.

KTVH reports that anti-death penalty protesters have camped out in front of the governor's mansion in Little Rock in the weeks leading to the decision. A supplier has said it sold the drug to Arkansas to be used for medical purposes, not executions. 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.

Lawyers for the state of Arkansas are trying to light a fire under a judge who has been slow to file written paperwork involving a death penalty case.

The executions of Davis and Bruce Ward were supposed to be the first two, but Ward received a stay from the Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday and the state did not appeal the decision.

The state originally set eight executions over an 11-day period in April, which would have been the most by a state in such a compressed period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Lawyers for the state said earlier this month that the prisoners know the state's supply a sedative that's part of its execution plan expires April 30 and that it would be "impossible" to execute the prisoners because "Arkansas has no source of midazolam" beyond that already in stock.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker on April 15 issued a stay of Arkansas' scheduled executions in a 101-page ruling in a lawsuit challenging the state's lethal-injection protocol. The company argued that it would suffer harm financially and to its reputation if the executions were carried out.

The high court's order sparing Davis offered no explanation, but none of the justices voted in favor of lifting the stay. In text messages from Jenkins' phone, which came up at a court hearing Wednesday, there is no mention that the drug would be used in executions.

Two inmates are scheduled for execution Thursday night with three more executions planned for next week. McGuire's execution lasted 25 minutes, the longest in Ohio's history, and witnesses said he "gasped several times throughout" before dying.

"Today, our court gives uncertainty to any case ever truly being final in the Arkansas Supreme Court", Justice Rhonda Wood wrote in a dissenting opinion Wednesday.

Arkansas plans to execute Lee and another inmate, Stacey Johnson, on Thursday night. On Tuesday, a state judge denied the DNA test for Lee.

Arkansas' store of midazolam is set to expire at the end of April, one of the reasons for the rushed schedule of executions. There are no current stays blocking those executions, but both inmates have pending court challenges.

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