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Legal hurdles loom large in Arkansas plan for executions

21 April 2017, 01:14 | Darin Griffith

Even if Arkansas wins reversals at the state level, the eight inmates who had been scheduled to be put to death this month have three requests for reprieves at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court ruled that the condemned inmate should have a chance to prove his innocence with more DNA testing.

Stacey Johnson was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of Carol Heath in 1993, who was killed in her home while her 6-year old daughter watched.

An hour before Scott's show aired, correspondent Casey Stegall noted on Fox's America's Newsroom that "states have had a hard time getting new supplies of this drug [midazolam] because many critics say it should not be used to kill people".

Lee is one of two inmates who had been set to die Thursday night.

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

Rory Griffin testified Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by medical supply company McKesson Corp., which is asking a judge to not allow Arkansas to use its drug in executions. Outside groups and the candidates spent more than $1.6 million a year ago on a pair of high court races that were among the most fiercely fought judicial campaigns in the state's history. The Arkansas circuit judge temporarily blocked the state from using one of its drugs, vecuronium bromide, a paralytic used in prisons for lethal injections (and for other purposes elsewhere).This ruling came after McKesson, a distributor of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, filed a complaint alleging that the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) "intentionally sought to circumvent McKesson's policies by claiming that the drug would only be used for medical reasons in a health facility".

"I am both surprised and disappointed at the last minute stay by the Arkansas Supreme Court". Midazolam has been used in several botched executions in other states.

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The execution of a third inmate, Jason McGehee, had been set for April 27, but a federal judge put it on hold earlier this month, saying McGehee was entitled to a 30-day comment period after the Arkansas Parole Board told the governor that the inmate's clemency request had merit.

The company said that ADC placed the order for the drug over the phone and never disclosed that the drug was to be used for executions.

Arkansas plans to execute Lee and another inmate, Stacey Johnson, on Thursday night.

"There are five scheduled executions remaining with nothing preventing them from occurring, but I will continue to respond to any and all legal challenges brought by the prisoners", Rutledge said.

In the drug case, a state prison official testified that he deliberately ordered the drug previous year in a way that there wouldn't be a paper trail, relying on phone calls and text messages.

"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.

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

The Innocence Project previously asked the state's circuit court to grant Johnson new DNA testing, CBS affiliate KTVH reports. Four of the eight have been granted stays of execution. In fact, one of the orders blocking the executions was issued for that exact reason.



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