Arkansas governor disappointed by court ruling

Candice Alexander
April 21, 2017

The Arkansas Supreme Court has halted one of two executions planned for Thursday night, once again throwing a wrench in the state's plans to conduct several executions before the end of April, when one of its lethal injection drugs expires. Johnson's attorneys requested additional DNA testing on evidence that they say could prove his innocence in the 1993 rape and killing of Carol Heath.

Johnson was set for execution Thursday night along with inmate Ledell Lee, who is also seeking a stay in a separate case.

It was unclear whether Rutledge would appeal the stay of execution for Johnson to the U.S. Supreme Court after the state lost an appeal to the high court on a case involving another inmate Monday night.

Davis had already been served a last meal of fried chicken, rolls, beans, mashed potatoes and strawberry cake, and witnesses were being moved toward the execution chamber when the Supreme Court ruled just minutes before his death warrant expired at midnight. The US Supreme Court is set to hold oral arguments in that case, McWilliams v. Dunn, on April 24.

The state originally set eight executions to occur over an 11-day period in April, which 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 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a federal judge's ruling blocking the executions over the use of midazolam, a sedative used in flawed executions in other states.

A judge in Pulaski County on Tuesday rejected the request for DNA testing from inmate Ledell Lee. Another ruling Wednesday could scuttle the entire schedule.

During its reporting on the state of Arkansas' unprecedented plan to execute eight inmates in 11 days, Fox News repeatedly omitted important details about the legal challenges to the plan, downplayed the extent of criticism to the plan, and misled its viewers on the reasons the executions have not yet been carried out.

A group of Arkansas inmates is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block upcoming executions in the state, citing concerns with one of the lethal injection drugs. It's one of three drugs Arkansas plans to use in its executions. West-Ward Pharmaceuticals, the company that makes midazolam, and Fresenius Kabi USA, manufacturer of potassium chloride, another drug used in executions, have also expressed opposition to the use of their drugs for lethal injection.

At one hearing about the state's desire to move quickly on executions, former Tulsa World reporter Ziva Branstetter testified.

The highest courts in Arkansas and the USA could put the executions back on track, but for now Arkansas faces an uphill battle to put any inmate to death before the end of April, when one of its lethal injection drugs expires. Since 2011, many European drug companies, in an alignment with the European Union's objection to death penalty, have chose to cease shipment of their drugs to US prisons that carry out executions via lethal injections.

Lawyers for the inmates set to be executed Thursday are relying primarily on claims the men are innocent.

Other reports by VgToday

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