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Arkansas can not use drug needed for any scheduled executions, judge rules

Arkansas can not use drug needed for any scheduled executions, judge rules

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas prepared again Thursday to conduct its first executions since 2005, wary and tired after a series of court decisions gutted its unprecedented plan to put eight men to death before the end of the month.

Stacey Johnson was convicted of killing Carol Heath in 1993 in Sevier County, AR.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he was "surprised and disappointed" by Wednesday's state Supreme Court stay of Johnson's execution.

Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson were to be put to death Thursday night, but Johnson's execution was at least temporarily halted and Arkansas' ability to use one of its execution drugs was called into question.

The Arkansas Supreme Court voted 4-3 to grant a stay of execution for Johnson, one of the inmates scheduled to die Thursday.

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.

"McKesson was duped. into providing the drugs", lawyer John Tull argued. That's true whether it's the inmate who is seeking an eleventh-hour reprieve or the state that wants to put a prisoner to death. Attorneys for the inmate filed a request Wednesday for a stay with the state's highest court. Anti-death penalty supporter Randy Gardner, left, wipes away a tear moments after Abraham Bonowitz, left, read on his phone the 11:45pm Supreme Court decision to halt the execution.

State authorities are facing obstacles as they try to execute eight prisoners in 11 days before a key drug in the lethal injections expires. Despite the secrecy measure, prison officials have said it will be very hard to find a supplier willing to sell Arkansas midazolam after its current stock expires.

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Now on her third long-duration mission, she already holds the record for the most spacewalks conducted by a female astronaut. Moscow time on the same day, with Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos and Jack Fischer of NASA aboard.

While the latest court rulings could be overturned, Arkansas now faces an uphill battle to execute any inmates before the end of April, when one of its lethal injection drugs expires.

Arkansas is hard up for lethal injection drugs because pharmaceutical companies have long avoided providing their products to Department of Corrections for executions.

The McKesson Corp unit said in a lawsuit that it would not have sold the drug to the Arkansas prison system had it known it would be used in executions. According to a state prison official's testimony in the drug case, he "deliberately ordered the drugs previous year 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. A McKesson salesman presented the texts at the court hearing, which showed no mention or indication that the drug would be used for lethal injections.

The justices often split on death penalty issues, with the conservative justices more willing to allow an execution to take place and the liberal justices more inclined to side with inmates.

"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.

Ledell Lee appears in Pulaski County circuit court Tuesday, 18 April.

Arkansas' store of midazolam is set to expire at the end of April, one of the reasons for the rushed schedule of executions. "It is inconceivable that this court, with the facts and the law well established, stays these executions over speculation that the (U.S.) Supreme Court might change the law".


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