First of mul­ti­ple ex­e­cu­tions car­ried out

Three other lethal in­jec­tions have been blocked by chal­lenges

The Dallas Morning News - - FRONT PAGE -

Arkansas ex­e­cuted an in­mate for the first time in nearly a dozen years as part of its plan to ex­e­cute sev­eral in­mates be­fore a drug ex­pires on April 30.

VARNER, Ark. — Arkansas ex­e­cuted an in­mate for the first time in nearly a dozen years as part of its plan to ex­e­cute sev­eral in­mates be­fore a drug ex­pires April 30, de­spite court rul­ings that have al­ready spared three men.

Ledell Lee was pro­nounced dead at 11:56 p.m. Thurs­day, four min­utes be­fore his death war­rant was to ex­pire. The 51year-old Lee was given the death penalty for the 1993 death of his neigh­bor, De­bra Reese, whom Lee struck 36 times with a tire tool.

A prison spokesman said Lee on Thurs­day de­clined a last meal and opted in­stead to re­ceive Com­mu­nion.

Arkansas dropped plans to ex­e­cute a sec­ond in­mate, Stacey Johnson, on the same day af­ter the state Supreme Court said it wouldn’t re­con­sider his stay, which was is­sued so Johnson could seek more DNA tests in hopes of prov­ing his in­no­cence. Two more in­mates are set to die Mon­day, and one on April 27.

The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for Lee’s ex­e­cu­tion less than an hour be­fore his death war­rant was set to ex­pire at mid­night, re­ject­ing a round of last-minute ap­peals the con­demned in­mate’s at­tor­neys had filed. An ear­lier rul­ing from the state Supreme Court al­low­ing of­fi­cials to use a lethal in­jec­tion drug that a sup­plier says was ob­tained by mis­lead­ing the com­pany cleared the way for Lee’s ex­e­cu­tion.

The state orig­i­nally set four dou­ble ex­e­cu­tions over an 11day pe­riod in April. The eight ex­e­cu­tions 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. The state says the ex­e­cu­tions need to be car­ried out be­fore its sup­ply of one lethal in­jec­tion drug, mi­da­zo­lam, ex­pires on April 30. Three ex­e­cu­tions were can­celed be­cause of court de­ci­sions, and le­gal rul­ings have put at least one of the other five in doubt.

Jus­tices on Thurs­day re­versed an or­der by Pu­laski County Cir­cuit Judge Alice Gray that halted the use of ve­curo­nium bro­mide, one of three drugs used in the state’s lethal in­jec­tion process, in any ex­e­cu­tion. McKes­son Corp. said that the state ob­tained the drug un­der false pre­tenses and that it wants noth­ing to do with ex­e­cu­tions.

McKes­son said it was dis­ap­pointed in the court’s rul­ing.

“We be­lieve we have done all we can do at this time to re­cover our prod­uct,” the com­pany said in a state­ment.

Jus­tices also de­nied an at­tempt by mak­ers of mi­da­zo­lam and potas­sium chlo­ride — the two other drugs in Arkansas’ ex­e­cu­tion plan — to in­ter­vene in McKes­son’s fight over the ve­curo­nium bro­mide.

The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies say that there is a pub­lic health risk if their drugs are di­verted for use in ex­e­cu­tions and that the state’s pos­ses­sion of the drugs vi­o­lates rules within their distribution net­works.

LEDELL LEE

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