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

Arkansas governor disappointed by court ruling

Arkansas governor disappointed by court ruling

Meanwhile, the Arkansas Supreme Court on Wednesday granted a stay of execution to inmate Stacey Johnson, who had been set to die Thursday.

"When I set the dates, I knew there could be delays in one or more of the cases, but I expected the courts to allow the juries' sentences to be carried out since each case had been reviewed multiple times by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed the guilt of each", Hutchinson said in a statement.

According to KARK, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is weighing her legal options in responding to the court's decision to stay Johnson's execution.

Only one inmate, Ledell Lee, was still scheduled to be executed Thursday night when a Pulaski County Circuit Court judge granted a restraining order on the lethal injection drug, vecuronium bromide, purchased from distributor McKesson Medical-Surgical. In 2015, justices upheld Oklahoma's execution protocol that used the same drug. A double execution planned for earlier this week was halted by the state Supreme Court. The state's aggressive and potentially unconstitutional plan to execute eight inmates in 11 days is unprecedented, hugely consequential, and has drawn national scrutiny at a time when Americans' support for the death penalty is on the decline.

A deputy director of the Arkansas prison system says he deliberately ordered an execution drug in a way so there wouldn't be a paper trail.

Griffin said he used phone calls and text messages past year to order one of Arkansas' three execution drugs. He said he didn't keep records of the texts, but a McKesson representative did. 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.

That means that death row inmates could seem unresponsive but actually feel like they're suffocating after the second drug, a paralytic, is introduced.

Court decisions in recent weeks, both from the state and US Supreme Courts, had granted all eight inmates a temporary reprieve, but some were overturned.

The judge facing re-election, Courtney Goodson, lost her bid for chief justice previous year after conservative groups blanketed the state with ads attacking her.

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

Another justice objecting to the rulings, Rhonda Wood, wrote in a dissent that Wednesday's stay "gives uncertainty to any case ever truly being final in the Arkansas Supreme Court". On Tuesday, a state judge denied a motion from Lee's lawyers for DNA testing. But courts have blocked three of those executions from going forward. Attorneys for Bruce Ward and Don Davis, who had faced lethal injection Monday night, said the executions should be put off until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a pending case involving inmates' access to independent mental health experts. There are no current stays blocking those executions, but both inmates have pending court challenges.

A pair of death-row inmates scheduled for lethal injection Thursday evening have been transferred to the Cummins Unit, the location of the state's execution chamber, a prisons spokesman said Wednesday. 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.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson originally scheduled eight executions to occur before the end of April, when one hard-to-acquire lethal injection drug expires.

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