Arkansas inmates hit roadblocks in bid to stop executions

Arkansas inmates hit roadblocks in bid to stop executions

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he is "surprised and disappointed" that the state Supreme Court has granted a stay of execution to Stacey Johnson, who was scheduled to be put to death Thursday.

"When I set the dates, I knew there could be delays in one or more of the cases, but I expected the courts to allow the juries' sentences to be carried out since each case had been reviewed multiple times by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed the guilt of each", Hutchinson said in a statement. Johnson claims that advanced DNA techniques could show that he didn't kill Carol Heath, a 25-year-old mother of two, in 1993 at her southwest Arkansas apartment.

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".

Another inmate, Ledell Lee, was scheduled for execution Thursday night and has a similar request pending for more DNA testing, though a Pulaski County judge ruled against him Tuesday.

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. "It is inconceivable that this court, with the facts and the law well established, stays these executions over speculation that the (U.S.) Supreme Court might change the law". Judge Wendell Griffin's decision was vacated Monday by the Arkansas Supreme Court, as we reported. That would be the most in the United States in as short a period since the death penalty's reinstatement 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.

Another justice objecting to the rulings, Rhonda Wood, wrote in a dissent that Wednesday's stay "gives uncertainty to any case ever truly being final in the Arkansas Supreme Court".

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In its lawsuit, McKesson Medical-Surgical, a unit of McKesson Corp, said the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) acted deceitfully when it purchased another drug, vecuronium bromide, a commonly used muscle relaxant given in extreme doses in executions to paralyze the body and halt breathing. It's one of three drugs Arkansas plans to use in its executions.

"ADC meant to use this product in connection with executions, a fact that was never disclosed to McKesson", the company said in the filing at a state court in Little Rock, the state capital. Attorneys for the inmate filed a request Wednesday for a stay with the state's highest court.

Arkansas' supply of a drug used in lethal injections - Midazolam - is set to expire at the end of this month.

In a separate action on Tuesday, lawyers for all eight inmates filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to halt all the executions on issues including drug protocols and access to counsel.

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