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Arkansas overcomes legal hurdles, carries out execution

Arkansas overcomes legal hurdles, carries out execution

Justice Neil Gorsuch had an active first day on the Supreme Court on Monday, weighing in heavily on both of the Court's morning cases and injecting some humor into two dry legal subjects.

Another day of intense legal wrangling kept Lee, who was sentenced to death more than two decades ago, alive until just before his death warrant expired at midnight.

"I pray this lawful execution helps bring closure for the Reese family", Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement. Lee showed no signs of consciousness two minutes after the lethal injection, which began at 11:44 p.m.

After a hiatus of almost 12 years, Lee's execution was carried out without any apparent glitches.

Lee did not make a final statement.

"He knew there was a chance that not all of them would go through", said J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Hutchinson.

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The state's "rush" to execute Lee "denied him the opportunity to conduct DNA testing that could have proven his innocence", Senior Staff Attorney Nina Morrison of the Innocence Project said in a statement. "While reasonable people can disagree on whether death is an appropriate form of punishment, no one should be executed when there is a possibility that person is innocent".

Lee, who had consistently maintained his innocence, was seeking DNA tests that his lawyers said could prove his claim.

Earlier, on Thursday, Arkansas's highest court lifted one of many obstacles to the state's original plan to carry out several executions by the end of the month.

Courts have upheld Arkansas' secrecy law and similar laws in a handful of other states.

Hikma also wrote letters to the Correction Department previous year seeking the return of its drugs. The ruling came in an unprecedented lawsuit from drug distributor McKesson Corp., which alleged state officials misled the company when purchasing its supply of vecuronium bromide last July by using a physician's license number that implied the drug would be used only for medically approved purposes.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray had sided with the San Francisco-based company, saying that the execution drug "was essentially obtained illegally by the state". Another inmate scheduled for execution next week has received a stay.

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The nation's top court as well as a United States circuit court issued temporary execution stays as they analyzed the case - but ultimately all were lifted.

Initially, Arkansas had meant to put Lee and seven other men to death in the span of just 11 days, racing against the clock of the expiration of one of the drugs in the state's chemical execution cocktail.

Before Lee's death, all executions had been put on hold in the state after a judge issued a restraining order on a key lethal injection drug.

"While other states have increasingly come to the conclusion that the capital punishment system is beyond fix, Arkansas is running in the opposite direction from progress". Representatives for Fresenius and Hikma Pharmaceuticals - the parent company for West-Ward, which the AP identified in 2015 as the likely maker of Arkansas' midazolam - said they don't know for sure that the state used their products because Arkansas officials won't answer their questions.

The state is set to carry out three more executions next week. According to journalists present, Lee exhibited no visible response after the lethal injection was administered.

"In preparation for their scheduled executions, Johnson and Lee were moved Tuesday to the Cummins Unit, the location of the state's execution chamber, a prisons spokesman said Wednesday". Solomon Graves, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Correction, waits at a desk for a telephone call with news from the death chamber at the Cummins Unit prison near Varner, Ark., on Thursday, April 20, 2017.

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