Arkansas set for first ex­e­cu­tion since 2005

Drug sup­plier says was mis­lead­ingly ob­tained given OK

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY KELLY P. KISSEL AND SEAN MUR­PHY

Arkansas was poised Thurs­day to carry out its first ex­e­cu­tion since 2005 af­ter three other lethal in­jec­tions planned by the end of the month were scrapped in the face of court chal­lenges.

A 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 Arkansas to pro­ceed to ex­e­cute Ledell Lee on Thurs­day night.

But with his death war­rant set to ex­pire at mid­night, the ap­peals court and the Supreme Court were still con­sid­er­ing sev­eral ap­peals.

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.

The state orig­i­nally set four dou­ble ex­e­cu­tions over an 11-day 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.

Lee was set to be ex­e­cuted for the 1993 death of his neigh­bor Debra Reese, who was struck 36 times with a tire tool her hus­band had given her for pro­tec­tion. A prison spokesman said Lee on Thurs­day de­clined a last meal and opted in­stead to re­ceive com­mu­nion.

Justices on Thurs­day stayed 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. says 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 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.

The le­gal ma­neu­vers frus­trated Repub­li­can Gov. Asa Hutchin­son, who had set the ex­e­cu­tion sched­ule less than two months ago. The state’s elected pros­e­cu­tors also crit­i­cized the road­blocks to the ex­e­cu­tion plans.

“Through the ma­nip­u­la­tion of the ju­di­cial sys­tem, these men con­tinue to tor­ment the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies in seek­ing, by any means, to avoid their just pun­ish­ment,” the pros­e­cu­tors said in a joint state­ment is­sued Thurs­day.

An Alabama state Supreme Court rul­ing to al­low of­fi­cials to use a lethal ob­jec­tion drug that a sup­plier says was mis­lead­ingly ob­tained cleared Ledell Lee to be ex­e­cuted on Thurs­day night, although he still has pend­ing re­quests for reprieve.

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