Arkansas Supreme Court Issues Stay Of Execution For Stacey Johnson
Apr 21 2017 by Larry Hoffman
Only one inmate, Ledell Lee, was still scheduled to be executed Thursday night when a Pulaski County Circuit Court judge granted a restraining order on the lethal injection drug, vecuronium bromide, purchased from distributor McKesson Medical-Surgical. It's the second time this week that Arkansas has moved forward with what originally had been a plan to execute eight men before April 30, when its supply of the drug midazolam expires. Since 2011, many European drug companies, in an alignment with the European Union's objection to death penalty, have made a decision to cease shipment of their drugs to USA prisons that carry out executions via lethal injections.
"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. Jeremy Hutchinson, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Representatives from the attorney general's office were at the state Supreme Court on Thursday hoping justices would overturn a decision by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray that halted the use of vecuronium bromide in any execution.
But unlike the earlier decisions, this stay came from a court that had shifted to the right in recent elections. Outside groups and the candidates spent more than $1.6 million previous year on a pair of high court races that were among the most fiercely fought judicial campaigns in the state's history. Arkansas was among a number of states where conservative groups spent millions on such efforts.
The candidates backed by the conservative groups won both races. One of those winners voted for Monday's night stay.
Their strategy to win stays of execution is in marked contrast to the first two inmates who faced the death chamber in Arkansas and were spared Monday by arguing they should not be put to death because of mental health issues.
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.
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It's unclear whether the new execution obstacles would have any political fallout for the court. Polling has shown strong support for the death penalty in Arkansas. None of the campaign material mentioned the death penalty.
An Arkansas judge has blocked the state from using a lethal injection after a drug company argued it was misled by the state about the use of the drug, potentially halting the state's plan to put several men to death by the end of the month.
Lawyers for the state have complained that the inmates are filing court papers just to run out the clock on Arkansas' midazolam supply. The state did ask the U.S. Supreme Court to lift a stay granted to Davis, but the high court's last-minute refusal ensured he would not enter the death chamber Monday.
This comes after Johnson claimed additional DNA testing in his case could prove he was innocent.
Rosenzweig also represents two other inmates scheduled to die this month - Jack Jones and Kenneth Williams.
"The families are entitled to closure and finality of the law", wrote Justice Shawn Womack, a former Republican legislator whose rival past year was also targeted by conservative groups. There are no current stays blocking those executions, but both inmates have pending court challenges.
The situation is a familiar one for Rebecca Petty, whose daughter's killer was granted a reprieve by federal courts hours before his execution in 2004. I know that this is disappointing and hard for Carol Heath's family and her two children who were home at the time of the murder.