USA

Arkansas Supreme Court Grants Stay of Execution for Inmate Stacey Johnson

Arkansas Supreme Court Grants Stay of Execution for Inmate Stacey Johnson

In addition to the Department of Correction, the lawsuit named the department's head, Wendy Kelly, and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson as defendants. Anti-death penalty supporters Abraham Bonowitz, left, and Randy Gardner wait near their taped off "protest corral" outside the Varner Unit late Monday, April 17, 2017 near Varner, Ark. Anti-death penalty supporter Randy Gardner, right, embraces Abraham Bonowitz, left, after they read on his phone the 11:45 p.m., decision to halt the execution in their taped off "protest cor".

The three stays, along with one granted earlier, have whittled down the execution list to four, unless the U.S. Supreme Court allows Arkansas to move ahead with Stacey Johnson's Thursday execution.

In a statement late Wednesday, Hutchinson did not say whether the state would appeal the 4-3 decision.

"I know the families of the victims are anxious for a clear-cut explanation from the majority as to how they came to this conclusion and how there appears to be no end to the court's review", Hutchinson said.

The state high court decision was one of two setbacks Wednesday to Arkansas' bid to resume capital punishment after a 12-year hiatus. "They were told the drug would only be used in prison health clinics for its proper medicinal use, as opposed to putting prisoners to death".

McKesson said that ADC is a long time customer of the company and for most of the relationship, the ADC largely bought medical surgical supplies and other related items.

Arkansas enacted a law two years ago keeping secret the source of its lethal injection drugs, a move officials said was necessary to find new supplies. The US Supreme Court is set to hold oral arguments in that case, McWilliams v. Dunn, on April 24.

This comes after Johnson claimed additional DNA testing in his case could prove he was innocent. He was found guilty of killing a 25-year-old mother of two in 1993.

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Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson are slated for execution Thursday. Another ruling Wednesday could scuttle the entire schedule.

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.

"McKesson was duped. into providing the drugs", lawyer John Tull said, arguing the company could see its reputation and bottom line suffer. McKesson Corp. says the state obtained the drug under false pretenses and that it wants nothing to do with executions. 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.

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

Rutledge said the request should be denied, calling the filers "capital murderers who have enjoyed multiple opportunities to challenge their convictions, sentences and - critically - the method by which they will be lawfully executed". A ninth death-row inmate who does not have a scheduled execution date also signed on to the request.

Last week, a federal judge in Little Rock blocked the executions, citing concerns with the sedative midazolam that has been used in problematic executions in other states. In that order, the state Supreme Court did not elaborate on its reasoning. At one point in the proceedings before a federal judge last week, Arkansas Solicitor General Lee Rudofsky declared, "Enough is enough". His execution, as well as Bruce Earl Ward's, never occurred due to stays put in place by the Arkansas Supreme Court. There are no current stays blocking those executions, but both inmates have pending court challenges.

A blizzard of legal challenges resulted in three of the executions being halted and raised broader questions about the lethal injection drug mixes and death chamber protocols in USA executions, which hit a quarter-century low in 2016. In an amicus brief they filed with the district court, the companies wrote that using their medicines in executions "runs counter to the manufacturers' mission to save and enhance patients' lives". 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.


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