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Arkansas executes prisoner after battle over lethal drug

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Many people, including Sandra Cone, stayed for six hours until the state's last hour execution.

Arkansas has executed Ledell Lee in the U.S. state's first use of the death penalty in 12 years. Two were scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Arkansas on April 17.

The US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in St Louis considered a last-minute request from Lee for DNA testing, and had issued a stay until 9:15pm on Thursday (01:15 GMT Friday). The number of executions carried out in the United States fell to a 25-year low in 2016. Earlier this year, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, R, scheduled eight executions over 11 days in April, a pace unmatched for the modern American death penalty.

Lee, 51, was put on death row for the 1993 death of his neighbor Debra Reese, whom Lee struck 36 times with a tire tool her husband had given her for protection. After receiving the drug, patients must be on a ventilator or they will suffocate because their diaphragm can not move.

Inmates Bruce Ward (top row L to R), Don Davis, Ledell Lee, Stacy Johnson, Jack Jones (bottom row L to R), Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams and Jason Mcgehee are shown in this booking photo provided March 21, 2017. Under Arkansas' protocol, executioners administer 100 mg, or more than 11 times the typical dose, five minutes after the midazolam is administered and once the inmate is unconscious. A third execution, originally scheduled for next week, was previously halted by a federal judge after a parole board said it would recommend changing that inmate's sentence to life in prison. The state's supply will expire by the end of April.

Justices reversed a judge's order barring the use of vecuronium bromide, one of the three drugs used in the state's death penalty.

Judd Deere, a spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said the state will appeal that ruling. It is demanding the drug be returned or confiscated.

"McKesson was duped. into providing the drugs", lawyer John Tull said, arguing that the company could see its reputation and bottom line suffer. The state plans to execute 3 more prisoners next week.

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Lawyers for the state have complained that the inmates are filing court papers just to use up the time remaining on Arkansas' midazolam supply.

Lee's attorneys had filed multiple stay requests, but they were denied.

McKesson said it wants nothing to do with executions and was disappointed in the court's ruling.

Prosecutors came forward with evidence that Lee had previously committed violent crimes against several other women, though he maintained his innocence until his death.

Reporters from The Associated Press, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and ABC affiliate KATV were chosen as media witnesses an hour before the procedure was to take place.

The US state of Arkansas executed an inmate for the first time in almost 12 years this morning after the Supreme Court cleared the way for a lethal injection just half an hour before the murderer's death warrant was due to expire.

Attention will now turn to other impending executions in Arkansas. All three joined in a dissent saying the stay in this case "gives uncertainty to any case ever truly being final in the Arkansas Supreme Court".

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