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Ruling clears way for Arkansas' 1st execution since 2005

Ruling clears way for Arkansas' 1st execution since 2005

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker had said Saturday that Arkansas' execution protocol doesn't outline what would happen if the inmate were to remain conscious even if given a double dose. Lee is fighting in federal and state courts for a similar stay. But the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that order Monday, and the inmates appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. 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 request was filed Wednesday by the eight inmates for whom Gov. Asa Hutchinson scheduled execution dates this month. The company sued to stop Arkansas from using the drug in the planned lethal injections, and a hearing over that issue was underway in Little Rock on Wednesday afternoon.

The state can ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to reconsider its decision or appeal to the US Supreme Court, which on Monday opted not to vacate a separate stay involving inmate Don Davis.

Arkansas officials have said they can not obtain the drug from any other source, and have acknowledged in court papers that should McKesson prevail, all pending executions would be blocked.

"Because [Lee], like Stacey Johnson, has never gotten a hearing on his DNA petition, and has maintained his innocence for over two decades, we are hopeful that the Arkansas Supreme Court will also grant him a stay and give him a hearing on the DNA evidence", said the Innocence Project's Nina Morrison, who is one of Lee's attorneys.

The company, a unit of McKesson Corp, said it would not have sold the drug to the Arkansas prison system had it known it would be used in executions, and is demanding the drug is either returned or confiscated.

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"I have ultimate respect for the court and I'm not going to question individual decisions but I would say there is frustration among the Legislature as to the court's continued refusal to allow an execution to go through", said Sen.

A spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said Tuesday that the state will make its arguments in the cases involving Davis and Ward before the state Supreme Court but will follow the current briefing schedule that the court has set, with deadlines into late May.

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. Arkansas had planned to execute Johnson and Ledell Lee Thursday night. That's true whether it's the inmate who is seeking an eleventh-hour reprieve or the state that wants to put a prisoner to death.

But while Goodson voted to stay the three executions, so did the conservative-backed candidate who beat her in the chief justice race, Dan Kemp.

One doctor testified that being given vecuronium bromide without sedation and ventilation would be equivalent to being held underwater.

The judge facing re-election, Courtney Goodson, lost her bid for chief justice a year ago after conservative groups blanketed the state with ads attacking her.

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A reminder: President Trump has previously said he will "solve North Korea" in a Financial Times interview . Both Japan and South Korea are home to tens of thousands of USA troops.

Arkansas inmates set for a series of executions before the end of the month have filed a new request for stays. But Arkansas has faced a wave of legal challenges.

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

In court papers filed Thursday, they say any new judges assigned to their cases in a state court at Little Rock should have time to become familiar with their pleadings.

The court noted that the inmates "have a long history of filing and dismissing claims to manipulate the judicial process and prevent Arkansas from carrying out their executions".

Another ruling Wednesday could scuttle the entire schedule.

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